May 29, 2019

Reshaping the Table

As a young adult, I yearn for a Church where all young adults experience unforgettable moments in ministries that are their own in some way. I yearn for a Church that offers young adults the tools, the love, and the patience they need in their journey of understanding themselves, their faith, and the world around them.

The Church that I hope for is the type of Church that I have glimpsed through individuals who took chances on me, encouraged me, challenged me, prayed with me, and helped form me to be the person I am today. My life as a disciple has been enriched by opportunities to both lead and learn to follow; whether I was co-chairing a diocesan commission, preaching at Nuevo Amanecer, speaking up at General Convention, serving as camp counselor or a youth leader, or helping to develop a companion diocesan relationship between Texas and Costa Rica. I am a different kind of friend, daughter, mentor, and woman of faith today because I have been invited to walk into some strange and beautiful places to find the Spirit at work there.

Although I have been privileged to have people in my life who supported me and connected me to transformative leadership opportunities, that is not the experience of many young adults, especially young adults of color, in our church. We will have a truly inclusive church when the people who make our church multicultural and multigenerational not only have a seat at the table where decisions are made and future realities are spoken into being, but are given the opportunity to reshape the table.

Just think about what young adults bring to this work! As an Afro-Latina young adult, I identify with my parent’s heritage deeply, and I am proud and protective of my culture and race as a Dominican daughter. I was brought up to never feel insecure about speaking Spanish and to never feel ashamed when practicing cultural traditions. I was raised by two incredible, loving and supportive parents who taught me the importance of standing with the poor, the oppressed, the different, and the marginalized. I was raised to see Jesus’s never-ending grace and love in all individuals. I was also raised to believe that no dream is too big and to always speak my mind and heart. Give me a seat at your table, and I will reshape it.

As a 24-year-old young adult, I am aware of the opportunities for which young adults are overlooked, the holy ideas that are deemed too naive and unrealistic, and the gifts that are at times ignored. Yes, working with young adults is hard. As Missioner Associate for Houston Canterbury, a network of missional communities on college campuses and in the community, I understand how hard it is to gather young adults, to juggle their ever-changing schedules and life changes. Working with young adults is costly. Yet, what is the cost to the Church when we do not reach out to form and to be formed by young adults, especially young adults of color? If we do not reshape the table now, who will we find there in the future?

Young adults need a Church that encourages the use of their gifts, knowledge, capacity for relationship, and innovative hopes and dreams. We need a Church that creates spaces and environments where we can preach, teach, grow and share our faith unapologetically. We’re not as scary as we may seem. If anything, we are eager! We are hungry to serve and live into our baptismal covenant. As an Afro-Latina young adult, I am hungry for a church that deems my voice and the voices of so many young Asians, African Americans, Latin@s, and Native Americans, to be the voices of those who have heard what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

Whether as lay people or future ordained priests and deacons, our youth and young adults are ready to serve. Equip us with the opportunities, teachings and tools needed we need to best serve our church. We are ready to proclaim Jesus’ message of forgiveness and love. We are ready to sit and be with those who are suffering. We are ready to lead Compline and share the gospel. We are ready to be ushers, acolytes, Sunday school teachers, and youth group leaders, but we are also ready to take the Church out beyond its walls and doors. We are ready to sit in the councils of the church. We are ready. Send us. Teach us. Entrust us. Guide us. Pray with us.

Today, I am praying for many more Church gatherings where I can look up and see the many faces of those who make up this church: white, black, Asian, latin@, Native American, gay, straight, trans, young, and old. I am praying that we never allow gifts to be disregarded, voices to be silenced, and young adults to feel overlooked. I am praying that when our Church sees a young adult with the hunger to serve and learn, we stop, listen, talk, dream, and pray with them.

As Presiding Bishop Michael Curry wrote, “Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks [with] Compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world. Discipleship is about focusing on Jesus, following in the footsteps of Jesus, becoming his hands and feet in the world. Discipleship is about loving as Jesus loves, giving as Jesus gives, forgiving as Jesus forgives, welcoming and including as Jesus welcomes and includes, doing justice and loving mercy and walking humbly with God, like Jesus. Matthew’s gospel concludes with Jesus telling the disciples to “go therefore” and make disciples who make a difference in the world. “Go therefore” and be my hands, be my feet, be my face, be my voice, and change the world! (Matthew 28:19–20).”

I am called to use my face, voice, hands and feet to change this world. The young adults and students from all backgrounds and races within and outside of our churches are called. Are you called? If so, let’s go and make a difference in the world.