Energetic members of the Committee on Local Arrangement (COLA) greeted Presbyterians as they arrived in Minneapolis last weekend. The now-familiar white smocks (with the Presbyterian symbol emblazoned on front and back) cloaked volunteers at the baggage claim carousels, ready to point people to waiting buses and answer any questions. For the first time at a General Assembly, however, COLA invited local youth to volunteer alongside them.
Ed Martin, an adult volunteer, said the transportation team intentionally implemented aspects of the Restorative Justice paper (approved at the 214th General Assembly in 2002). The paper states that restorative justice works to address the needs of victim, offender and the community, without afflicting punishment or revenge, but by pursuing “the biblical visions of shalom and the kingdom of God.”
Accompanying some of the area’s troubled youth, Presbyterian volunteers modeled positive service. Martin commented that it was an easy way to say, “We care.” Roman Catholic, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist teens all helped with the hospitality; interestingly, none of the youth was Presbyterian.
Martin said, “The most wonderful thing was to see these young people get thanked. They don’t get that very often.” He continued, “That’s what the church is all about: helping them to feel important and valuable.”
In addition to the local youth, two church groups, from Plymouth Presbyterian Church, Plymouth, Minn., and Central Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, Ga., also helped the transportation teams. COLA expects some youth to also help as people depart on Saturday.