When I submitted the Youth Education Program proposal to the Presbyterian Welcome Board of Trustees last year, I hoped that in our inaugural year I'd be able to reach 150 youth. We're just entering November and I'm thrilled to report that through the Pride March, Sunday School classes, Triennium, youth group meetings and retreats, and more, we have already shared the good news of God's love and welcome with 297 youth since January.
The astounding success of our LGBTQ and allied youth outreach has no doubt been a result of gracious invitations from so many member churches, like Rutgers Church and Fifth Avenue Church, as well as non-Presbyterian Welcome churches, like West End Church and First Spanish Church. Thanks to these churches and so many others, I've been able to teach and learn from a group of youth whose passion, diversity, curiosity, and honesty have left me with no doubt that the Church is alive and well if we but take the time to see the incredible souls already in our midst.
As we near our Faithful Servant Awards on November 13th, I'm also conscious of the support of so many dedicated individuals and congregations, like the Brick Church and First Church in NYC, whose financial support of Presbyterian Welcome makes our ministry more than a dream. Without you it would not have been possible for me to spend nearly 150 hours with youth over the last ten months-in addition to our other programmatic work; caring for future LGBTQ Presbyterian pastors; nourishing our new worshiping community, Not So Churchy; and resourcing our member congregations as we prepare for another General Assembly with marriage equality on the table.
We will not be resting on our laurels in 2014.
I'm thrilled to announce our "Holy Imagination" retreat for youth from February 21-23. In partnership with the Trenton Area Campus Ministry we will be bringing together young people from churches throughout the New York City Metro Area and beyond to explore identities of race, gender, class, and sexuality from a place of faith. This initial retreat of about two dozen people, including dynamic preacher and seminary professor Cláudio Carvalhaes, is just the beginning of this new partnership.
As we also approach my ordination as a Minister of later this month and I become a member of the Presbytery of New York City, I have been elected to serve on the Committee on Congregational Nurture and Support, where I will sit on the sub-committee that oversees the youth work of our presbytery. We are also preparing for me to be a pastoral presence to the youth that attend this year's General Assembly, many of whom will be LGBTQ and subjected to the abusive language that comes to the forefront of our denominational gatherings.
These opportunities to be a presence in the heart of denominational structures are a gift and I look forward to helping shape an even more inclusive Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
In gratitude and peace, John Russell Stanger Minister for Advocacy and Education