Presbyterian Welcome’s Year Of Youth

by John Russell Stanger

I touched down in New York City last year just two weeks after graduation from seminary to join the staff at Presbyterian Welcome. Though I didn’t know what would come from it, I knew that Mieke and I had a mutual passion: making sure that youth in and out of the church know they are loved, whether they be gay, straight, transgender, bisexual, queer, or not entirely sure.

We both knew our work would not be as simple as telling youth they are loved “regardless” of their identity.

They are beloved because of it! Our Creator forms each of us uniquely and we praise our Maker when we celebrate who we are in the image of God. This is the good news we are called to proclaim to the young people in our midst.

In the last year, Presbyterian Welcome’s Youth Initiative has directly reached nearly one hundred and fifty young people through preaching, Sunday School, youth group evenings, service projects, community events, and conferences. Between being an adult advisor to dozens of youth at the Presbyterian Youth Triennium in Indiana and working with youth groups to make posters for the NYC Pride March, this summer has been a joyous, fruit-bearing time in the history our ministry.

In the next year we plan to aggressively expand our Youth Initiative by reaching even more faith communities and youth groups, developing curriculum that will help facilitate more welcoming environments for LGBTQ youth around the country, and mobilizing our member congregations to respond to LGBTQ youth homelessness.

We are also rejoicing that the Presbytery of New York City has validated my ministry at Presbyterian Welcome and confirmed my call as a Teaching Elder, which means I will be ordained later this fall.

Thank you to all who have so generously supported me and the work of Presbyterian Welcome as we have journeyed to this point. We look forward to the next year of proclaiming a God whose infinite love and welcome continues to propel us toward the new creation.

Find out more about Presbyterian Welcome’s work to empower LGBTQ and allied youth.