While I grew up Presbyterian, I didn’t reflect on my faith until I encountered a spate of health concerns and the independence of college. I decided to reaffirm my faith, and this was an impactful decision because I made it by myself for myself. I chose to be a Presbyterian because saw in the Presbyterian church a community of people who uplifted me, who uplifted others, and who valued everyone’s voice within the community.
I believe that the Presbyterian church is unique in the ways it empowers the voices of young people. I currently serve as a PC(USA) young adult volunteer (YAV) in Dundee, Scotland, and experience firsthand how the YAV program is a unique strength of the PC(USA). Not only is it affirming to be serving alongside a host of other young Presbyterians in cities all over the United States and other countries, but it has been so encouraging to receive mentoring, support and prayer from other denominational members. Their care has helped me and other young people be bolder, more faithful leaders as we grow.
Another reason why I love being a Presbyterian is because our denomination responds to the world around us. There has never been a more important time for church in the United States to be vocal about our values and our love for all, and I love that the PC(USA) knows this and works to enact change, leading from the heart instead of from either side of a political aisle. Racial justice, economic justice and climate justice are values that are intricately tied to our faith and Jesus’s teachings. It is important that churches stand for the value that comes with celebrating all of God’s creation and thank God for the ways he created us to be unique, making us stronger because of the ways we are different.
The Presbyterian church honors this diversity by inviting many voices into the mission of the church. I know there are many jokes out there about the number of committees within the PC(USA), but, at the heart of it, the number of people given a voice in the process is a strength that you can’t overstate. As a young person with no disillusions about the major challenges of the future, I love that the PC(USA) is full of people working so hard to protect the future of our world and the lives of our neighbors.
One of my favorite examples of how the PC(USA) values my voice, fights for justice and fosters diversity comes from my experience at the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), where I was invited to represent the PC(USA). As I prepared to join the annual meetings of CSW, the primary body in the United Nations for gender equity and the empowerment of women, I felt the heavy weight of imposter syndrome before our first orientation — who was I to attend meetings with government and civil society officials from all over the world?
Yet, the delegation made me feel incredibly welcome. They truly valued and appreciated young people wanting to join this work, they looked for ways to include me in initiatives, they celebrated my growth with me and we all mourned together the injustices that exist in the world. This year, I attended again, with even more young women this time. The ways the delegation encouraged us, throwing out their arms in welcome, gave me such an immense feeling of gratitude that the Presbyterian church provided me with such an opportunity.
The Presbyterian church has given me so much: a voice, an unrelenting passion for making our world better, compassion for others, a deep appreciation for diversity. And on my bad days, when the news is filled with despair, I take heart in knowing that somewhere within the PC(USA), there’s a committee working faithfully to solve it.