Most commissioners stagger wearily to bed after plenary recesses, but not everyone. Young Adult Advisory Delegates (YAADs) have extra commitments at the end of each day.
As commissioners are finishing their day, YAADs are beginning another caucus meeting complete with music, dancing, discussion and exuberance. Energizers followed by worship and music, small group processing and presentations on special issues—their days often end well after midnight.
The YAAD experience is an intense introduction to the PC(USA)’s highest council and its polity. Jeff Moles, YAAD advisor, said, “For many of them it’s their first experience at the national level of the church… This year I’ve been impressed by their seriousness and the way they’ve strategized.”
The group begins with orientation and the election of their own moderators who lead the group through YAAD gatherings for the rest of the week. Out of 160 YAADs at this 220th General Assembly, Kara Copeland (Florida) and Brandt Shields (John Calvin) are this year’s co-moderators.
Moderator of the 220th General Assembly, Neal D. Presa, visited the YAADs in their initial caucus, then returned on Thursday evening with Vice Moderator Tom Trinidad. Presa was impressed by the YAADs’ behavior in committees and plenaries. “You’re going to make a change [in the future church] and you did [here]… We want you to carry the passion and vision back to your families, youth groups and pastors.”
Plenary sessions this week have had many very close votes. Tensions have been high and debate has been long; nevertheless, YAAD Zachariah Sell (Nevada Presbytery) was not discouraged. Sell said, “Despite the surface divisiveness, as a YAAD, I’ve seen that people can be interested in others’ opinions. That gives me hope. To an even greater degree than I could imagine—experiencing the passion and spirituality when we’re all together, singing hymns, even arguing – all of these people are hoping to create a world that serves God.”
YAAD Piper Madison (North Alabama) also responded positively. “I feel a lot more assured of my call to ministry [because of General Assembly]. Being able to immerse myself in theology and community has affirmed my sense of call.”
Although YAADs are of similar ages, they do not always agree theologically or in polity. Still, their strong sense of community is evident to visitors. They have discovered how to maintain friendships despite other differences. Presa and Trinidad clearly trust their leadership and hope that others in the church will adopt their spirit.