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Young Adult Volunteers are developing relationships to ‘last a lifetime’

YAVs join three Presbyterian Mission Agency ministries as fellows

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — In its 30-year history, the Young Adult Volunteer program has produced future ministers of word and sacrament, ruling elders, educators and leaders of nonprofit organizations. But in this special virtual year some are getting the opportunity to learn in-depth about the Presbyterian Mission Agency and its ministries.

“Learning about the national church is something that has always been a part of YAV orientation,” said Destini Hodges, interim YAV coordinator. “We wanted to use this unusual virtual year to give YAVs the opportunity to work directly with the ministry areas and develop relationships we hope will last a lifetime. We can benefit from having young voices interwoven into the church dialogue.

YAV Sarah Bridges is partnering with Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, alongside the Rev. Michael Moore.

“Sarah is starting with us at a pivotal time when African American Presbyterian leaders and congregations are facing a very difficult and transformational time for the survival,” said Moore, RE&WIM’s associate for African American Intercultural Congregational Support. “Many small congregations do not have pastoral leadership and are suffering financial hardships. Along with the onset of COVID-19, which impacts communities of color disproportionately, it heightens the question of the role of Black churches and the ministries to communities of color.”

Moore said Bridges brings to the program a deep desire for healing others. Her professional goal to become a therapist.

As part of her year as a YAV fellow, Bridges says she hopes to create a youth forum centered on the Black church.

Sarah Bridges is working with Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries. (Contributed photo)

“We want to see if we can answer the question, ‘Why are Black youths leaving the church?’ We plan on gathering a group of Black youths to discuss in a forum-style format the reasons why Black youths are leaving the church and what can be done to bring them back,” she said. “We want this to be an open discussion. I will be doing some research and reviewing some material in order to prepare for the forum, which I will moderate.”

Moore said he believes the project will help Bridges achieve her goal of strengthening her confidence in public forums and to and find her voice.

Rachel Adams is working with the Rev. Rebecca Barnes, coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

“Rachel remembers going with her grandma to her congregation’s hunger ministry many times when her family would go visit her grandmother,” said Barnes. “She appreciated the direct food relief and at the same time is curious with Presbyterian Hunger Program to examine underlying causes to why people are hungry in the U.S. and around the world. With a background in social work and with having lived in Peru for her YAV year (before COVID hit), Rachel is perfectly situated to assist with some PHP research projects that will support Presbyterians and global partners in connecting the dots of hunger and poverty in the U.S. and in international settings.”

Just this week Adams began a research project with PHP and the Joining Hands Network on how mining impacts communities in both the United States and Peru.

Rachel Adams is working with the Presbyterian Hunger Program. (Contributed photo)

“I’m learning about the prevalence of mining in the United States and Peru: how unsafe mining practices can lead to community hunger due to environmental degradation, negative community health outcomes and long-term financial instability, and the value of building global solidarity between international communities,” Adams said. “My interactions with PHP have expanded my awareness of national and international hunger and its complexity, including its close connection with advocacy for human rights, sustainability and our faith.”

The Rev. Carlton Johnson of the Office Vital Congregations will be working with Carson Crawford. Johnson said Crawford will be working in two areas within Vital Congregations. The first will be speaking with presbytery leaders to discover how the Seven Marks of Vital Congregations have been incorporated into children, youth and young adult ministries. He will also assist in developing liturgies for Vital Congregations’ quarterly gatherings.

Carson Crawford is working with the Office of Vital Congregations. (Contributed photo)

“I believe it will be a mutual exchange of discovery for how the initiative can be implemented with more inclusivity in mind,” Johnson said.” I believe it will also help the YAV in his own journey of learning to work with congregations toward these goals.”

The Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program is an ecumenical, faith-based year of service for young people (ages 19–30) in sites across the United States and around the world.

To learn more about the program, go here.

The Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program is an ecumenical, faith-based service opportunity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at sites throughout the U.S. and around the world. YAVs ages 19-30 accompany local agencies to embody the Matthew 25 vision of dismantling structural racism, eradicating systemic poverty and building congregational vitality. Alongside this work, volunteers explore the meaning of their Christian faith and accountability to their neighbors in the community with peers and mentors. The YAV year is August to August. Applications are being accepted now. Learn more and apply.

Give to the Pentecost Offering to continue the valuable work of the Young Adult Volunteer Program.

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