It has been quite a while, as you can see, since my last blog post. I'm afraid that during the school year, I really lose track of time and struggle to find time for my hobbies. I usually have to pick one and abandon the others until the summer, if I have time then.
Currently, I am sitting in my hotel room at in Detroit, Michigan for the 221st gathering of the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s General Assembly. For you non-Presbyterians, it is basically our church's government system and we meet every two years to decide important issues that impact our denomination as a whole (fun fact: the U.S. government's democratic model is based off of ours, so there's that).
My capacity at this General Assembly is a Young Adult Advisory Delegate, or YAAD. After applying for this position two other times, let's just say that I am thrilled to finally be selected to represent my presbytery and be part of all the action.
So I arrived in Detroit yesterday and today has been an action packed orientation for YAADs. Already, I can tell that this will be a crazy, wonderful, chaotic, and, most importantly, Christ-filled experience. I believe that I will grow both as a person and in my faith through this experience.
During orientation, we learned about parliamentary procedure, appropriate behavior, other people, and just how to be YAADs. Part of the day, we split into four smaller groups, called home groups, based on the committees to which we are assigned. I enjoyed the home groups because it provided the opportunity to interact more closely with other YAADs and provided us a home base, so to speak.
Also, multiple different organizations within the PC(USA) came to talk to us, such as seminaries, service groups, and non-profits. As a rising senior looking for options after graduation, I was thrilled to find out about other opportunities in the church. However, it did make me think more about we define the role of people my age in the church.
I've always cared to an extent about my generation having a voice, but I never realized it so acutely as I did today. As a student at Presbyterian College and an active Montreat attendee, I have often heard that young people are the present of the church and thus have an active role in shaping the church. So I consider myself fortunate in that. However, I have also heard the concern be raised that young people are losing interest in the church and that something must be done to reach them. Perhaps that is true, but I don't have the data to know one way or another.
In my opinion the goal of the church should not be talking about bringing in young people or talking to young people about their importance, but rather talking with us, the young people, about the church--about what's next and what's now.
I think sometimes young people receive too much of a distinction when really we just want to be included. Rather than putting us into a different category, I believe young people just want to be an integrated part of the church body.
I remember the first time that I truly felt like my voice was heard by other church leaders. I was one of the youngest youth members to be selected for the 2010 Design Team for the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, a nationwide youth conference that happens every three years. At our first meeting, we all discussed at length ideas for the theme. When I contributed my ideas and opinions, I truly felt that everyone in the room (from the "grown ups" to the other youth) took what I, a fifteen year old sophomore in high school, had to say.
My point? We of all ages can work together to shape our church today. The YAAD orientation today really reminded me how passionate I am about letting all voices be heard and that I have great hope for our denomination in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.
I'll try to keep this updated as the week progresses with a little summary of the proceedings along with a personal reflection.