August 23, 2020
On the last day of Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) orientation, we are sent off to be commissioned at churches in the Hudson River Valley near Stony Point Center. Several churches in the area agree to host small groups of YAVs for worship where we are commissioned for our year of service, followed by a meal and conversations. We as YAVs come as we are, bringing our whole selves, exhausted from the past week of orientation, to a table of strangers, to share our intentions for our year of service and what we have already begun learning during the first week.
Personally, as a YAV commissioned for my first year of service in the fall of 2018, the process started out wildly terrifying. This would be the first of many times we would be introduced to a group of people and asked to explain who we were and why we felt God was calling us to partake in the work of the church. After spending a week discussing the troublesome, and frequently harmful, history of mission work (along with three intense days digging deep into the pervasive nature of structural and systemic racism in the world, our country and our church), I truly didn’t have answers to the questions that I feared they would ask. I ended that week of orientation feeling nervous, intimidated and scared of the tasks before me. In no way did I feel prepared or confident to discuss my mission with a room of strangers. However, looking back at my experience of being commissioned, I can tell you that these fears I carried around were quickly released as the service began.
My experience being commissioned after orientation, at my home church and local churches in Asheville and Tucson has allowed me to understand that commissioning services are a valued piece of the YAV experience. Worshiping with a new congregation, having a group of strangers stand beside you and commission you, is a way for the YAV class to understand that during this year of service, while we are struggling to identify who God has called us to be, we are not alone. The church is our family. They are here for us, they support us, and at the service, they pledge to walk alongside us in our journey.
Being a YAV has been one of the deepest privileges of my life because it has introduced me to the most amazing, loving and kindhearted people. After spending a week confronting the issues of the church, race and mission, as well as recognizing a world torn and in anguish, commissioning Sunday allows YAVs to remember and embrace that they are not alone. That any stranger can become a friend. That this journey is not just ours, it’s God’s. We go through the year as disciples learning and serving just as many others have done before us and will continue to do. Commissioning Sunday is a way to tell incoming volunteers that they are not in this experience alone. My own experience led me to feel heard as a young leader of the church. I am not sure that is the case for all YAVs, but I know that many walk away feeling more at ease, loved and cared for by strangers in Christ, our neighbors.
Katie Jenkins, a Member of the PC(USA) church who calls Mason City, Illinois, home, served as a YAV in Asheville, North Carolina, during the 2018–19 year, and Tucson, Arizona, during the 2019–20 year
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, August 23, 2020, the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Today’s Focus: Young Adult Volunteer Commissioning Sunday
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Creator God, you have crafted each of us for a purpose, with a plan in mind that will change the world and influence us to struggle, learn and grow. Just as you sent prophets, Samaritans and the Messiah to us, you have sent strangers and friends to let us know that we are not alone. We may not yet know what is asked of us as individuals, but as a whole, you have commanded one thing: to love one another. May we move through life remembering that request. As we struggle to find ourselves and to reshape this broken world, help us to remember we are not alone. United in faith, a family of love, forgiveness and grace. Amen.