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Today in the Mission Yearbook

The PC(USA) wants to strengthen the voices of young adults by offering them an advocacy conference this fall


Two compelling voices join the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins during the ‘Advocacy Watch’ podcast

August 3, 2023

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins

Three of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s strongest voices for empowering young adults to advocate for change that’s important to them recently took to the airwaves to discuss the free Young Adult Advocacy Conference set for Oct. 20–22 at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville.

Listen to the 26-minute conversation among the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, Ivy Lopedito and Victoria Alexander on “Advocacy Watch,” a monthly edition of “A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast,” by going here.

Hawkins is director of the PC(USA)’s advocacy offices in Washington, D.C., and the United Nations. Lopedito is associate for international issues at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, and Alexander is a Young Adult Volunteer working at the PMUN.

The fall conference is being offered free of charge to college students, seminarians and other young adults living in the Louisville area and in southern Indiana. It’ll also have an online component. A video explaining the conference can be seen here. Visit the conference website by going here.

Asked by Hawkins to explain the value such a conference might have for young people, Alexander said, “For me, it’s really important that my faith is one of action. So many of the advocacy priorities I have — gun violence prevention and climate — you get a lot of the ‘thoughts and prayers’ sort of response from the Christian community. To me, our faith means going beyond that.”

Victoria Alexander, a Young Adult Volunteer for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), said the 65th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women has been “one of the most meaningful, inspiring, thought-provoking experiences” of her life. (Contributed photo)

The skills young adults will sharpen at this conference — and at subsequent conferences planned for Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2024 and East Lansing, Michigan, in 2025 — “are skills that when you develop them, you’re going to use them for the rest of your life,” Alexander said. “I wish I’d had an event like this when I was starting out my advocacy journey.”

Young adults can and should learn that “I don’t have to wait for someone older to give me permission. I don’t need to wait for the chance to speak up. I can take it right now,” Alexander said. “It speaks to the priorities the PC(USA) has, that they’re putting together an advocacy conference like this and saying, ‘Not only do we want young people in the room — we want them to be the ones leading us in all this advocacy work.’”

“We believe empowering young people to engage and to take an active role can play a crucial part in changing the future for the greater good,” Lopedito said. “We’ve been engaged in a Matthew 25 vision that calls upon the church to care for the most vulnerable and to seek a flourishing of all God’s people,” especially in fighting poverty and racism, seeking greater Creation care and gender justice and embracing peacemaking and human dignity for all people, she said. Then Lopedito turned the tables on Hawkins, asking him, “Why is advocacy work important in the lives of young adults?”

Ivy Lopedito is associate for international issues at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. (Contributed photo)

“Every congregation wants more young people,” Hawkins said. “What do young people want? They want to see a church that’s concerned about the community.” Not only will young adults receive training to become more effective advocates, “they will see the Church in a new light, that the Church is involved in justice and concerned when people are homeless and have nowhere to go, concerned when there is war all around the world, concerned when they see injustice in their local communities,” Hawkins said. “They’ll see that the church has a prophetic voice, a longstanding prophetic voice. We’ve been doing this work for over 70 years” in both the nation’s capital and at the United Nations.

Alexander has appreciated how intergenerational churches can be as they go about the work of advocacy.

“I have seen so many people around me willing to share their life experience,” Alexander said.

During the conference, “we’ll explore the connection between faith and justice,” Lopedito said. “For justice advocacy, that’s the heartbeat of our work. It’s important to go to church, but it’s even more important to be the church.”

“We hope to see a lot of young people there,” Lopedito said, “and we can’t wait to see all that God has for the future of this work and for young people who are excited and committed to do this work.”

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Young Adult Advocacy Conference

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Cathy Holland, Generalist, Human Resources, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)
Tyler Holm, Mission co-worker serving in Malawi, World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray

Ever-present God, help us to see today with the heart of Jesus the needs of those around us. And may our hands always be helping in Jesus’ name. Amen.