Alejandro Escalante, a student at Union Theological Seminary, joins the Presbyterian Welcome team this week as part of his field education. Alejandro will be serving as our Youth Program Coordinator, where he will work with Rev. John Russell Stanger to deepen and expand the ministry we’ve done over the last two years with LGBTQ youth and their allies. Get to know him by eavesdropping on this conversation we had with Alejandro.
Welcome to the team! What excites you most about working with Presbyterian Welcome?
Coming from religious life in Florida that was not welcoming, or inclusive, the work that the Presbyterian Welcome is doing has been something I've wanted to do for a long time. Creating inclusive environments where people can grapple with their spiritual questions while at the same time able to be authentically themselves can take many facets, and I look forward to listening and being a part of those conversations. Secondly, but just as important, the work of LGBTQ+ advocacy has larger implications for global justice and I am happy to play my small part.
When did you realize you were called to work with youth?
Everyday when I would work with youth groups in Florida, I would have to make a decision to dedicate time to such important work. This doesn't make me special for doing the work; I bring it up because volunteering made me realize that the work I was doing was so fulfilling that it made me want to reinvest whatever I was getting out of it--and this was while I was a junior in high school. I can remember leading Bible studies and hearing some stories of great loss or happiness, and feeling like it was an honor to be let into someone's life in such a personal way.
Being Episcopalian, and working with a historically Presbyterian ministry, does inter-denominational ministry interest you? Hint: we love it!
While probably not the best answer, a friend of mine once told me this about the Anglican church: "The great thing about Anglicans is that we have no theology of our own; it’s only if something is true, the Anglicans believe it. That’s the theory anyway." I've held on to this experience for some time and think on it often. The nuances that each of these traditions brings to the work of LGBTQ+ advocacy doesn't in my opinion bifurcate our job, but makes it multiperspectival and models a kind of inclusiveness that we seek to live, teach, and inspire.
What is something you think LGBTQ people have to offer the church?
Being queer. The church has existed for too long in dyadic relationships, and queer people live into a life that is the kin-dom of God--a community of faith that doesn't settle for easy answers, easy categorization, and doesn't allow prevailing norms to define who they are or what they will be for each other.
To work in this office you have to have a favorite Beyoncé song. What's yours?
I think you mean goddess Queen Bey. Drunk in love--duh.