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Biographical information released for Youth Ministries Task Force

Fifteen-member panel will report to next summer’s General Assembly

May 13, 2009

LOUISVILLE

The members of the sixth and final special committee named by the moderator of the 218th General Assembly have varied experiences but are united by their interest in youth and young adult ministries.

The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow announced the 15 members of the committee earlier this month. The group comprises 10 youth and young adult members (ages 15-21) and five adult mentors. It will hold its first meeting June 11-15, during and after the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Big Tent event in Atlanta.

The task force is charged with seeking input from youth, young adults and adults and with finding and presenting model programs that focus on the needs and development of youth ministries.

The group will report back to the 219th General Assembly in 2010 with specific recommendations for designing youth ministries under a new vision for youth for the PC(USA).

The biographical information on force members:

Jordan Akin: Akin attends Central High School in Little Rock, AR, and is a deacon and member of the Youth Ministry at Second Presbyterian Church. She also serves on the Presbytery of Arkansas Youth Council and is on the 2010 Montreat Youth Conference planning team. This summer, Akin will travel to Turkey and Greece, following the steps of the apostle Paul as part of a camp called “Footsteps in Faith.”

G. Jacob Bolton: Bolton is the director of family ministries at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York. He is a graduate of Kalamazoo College and Union Theological Seminary. Bolton is a member of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, the Presbyterian Writers Guild and the National Eagle Scouts Association.

Elder Karen Ceaser: Ceaser serves part time in youth ministry at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Lomita, CA. She is also on the Mission Interpretation & Promotion Committee of the Presbytery of the Pacific. In 2007, she served as a Presbyterian Youth Triennium Adult Advisor and has led many youth mission trips across the country. Ceaser has been active in youth ministry since 1990 with organizations like Young Life, Youth Specialties and Habitat for Humanity.

Rev. Rex Espiritu: Espiritu is pastor at First Presbyterian Church in New Castle, IN. He is part of the inaugural fellowship of the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program. During seminary and after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary, Espiritu was associate director of music and later served on the pastoral staff at Faith Church in southern New Jersey.

Hakeem Jerome Jefferson: Jefferson is majoring in political science and African American studies at the University of South Carolina, where he is a University Ambassador and the secretary of Minority Affairs for the school’s Student Government Association. Jefferson is a member of Goodwill Presbyterian Church in South Carolina and has served on many levels there. Since the age of 13, he has had a public speaking career.

Austin Lane: Lane is a high school sophomore and is from a small town in the middle of Texas. He is very active in his church and presbytery and has strong leadership, musical and speaking skills.

Kristy Lauron: Stockton Presbytery, Synod of the Pacific. Additional biographical information not available.

Jessie Light: Light is an incoming freshman at Vanderbilt University, where she will study human organization and development. She has served as moderator of her youth group and as a Young Adult Advisory Delegate to the 218th General Assembly (2008). She has been on several mission trips and was on the Montreat Youth Conference Planning Team for the summer of 2008.

Alex McDonald: McDonald is a high school sophomore in Atlanta and a member of Central Presbyterian Church, where he serves on the youth ministry committee. He has been on several youth mission trips and worked with his youth group to perform “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” At school, he is involved with the Student Government Association, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the tennis team.

Madison Munoz: Munoz is a junior at Florida State University, where she is pursuing a dual degree in international affairs and English literature, with a minor in psychology. She is a lifelong member of First Presbyterian Church in Ocala, FL and is active with FSU’s Presbyterian University Center. She has studied abroad in Panama and China and spent a summer working with the Clubs Program at Montreat.

Elder Clara Pauw: Pauw is a sophomore at Emory University, where she is majoring in history and French. She plays rugby, writes for the student newspaper and is a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and a Christian group called Reformed University Fellowship. She was a Young Adult Advisory Delegate to the 218th General Assembly (2008) and is a member of Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church in Louisville, KY.

Brittney Shook: Shook is a high school sophomore in Solon, OH, where she is a member of the cross country team and the Key Club. She served on her church’s Educator Nominating Committee to help find a new director of Christian education and youth ministry. She has also worked with the Vacation Bible School for four years.

Rev. Michelle Thomas-Bush: Thomas-Bush is a minister of youth and young adults at Riverside Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, FL. She has worked in youth ministry for more than 20 years, serving as a preacher and keynote speaker at Montreat Youth Conferences and conference dean and small group leader at the Presbyterian Youth Triennium. She is a charter member of the Presbyterian Youth Workers Association.

Elder Rachel Van Marter: Van Marter is a senior at the Youth Performing Arts School in Louisville, KY, where she studies theater and musical theater. She has been to 15 General Assemblies, as well as the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, Montreat Youth Conference and various mission trips around the U.S. and Guatemala. Van Marter is an ordained elder at Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church.

Rev. Kelly Wiant-Thralls, chair: Wiant-Thralls is associate pastor at Market Square Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg, PA, where her main responsibilities are with youth and young adults. She earned a master’s degree in Christian education and an M.Div from Union Theological Seminary-Presbyterian School of Christian Education. She has also served as a Young Adult Volunteer in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she worked with an agency that addresses the issues surrounding homelessness.

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