Update from Intern Melva!

With the new school year approaching, and a rather intense social climate given recent events, much of my time for UCM has involved thinking of ways to best engage students in the Fall, with activities, fellowship, and spiritual growth no matter what God has in store. It is always a challenge to meet the needs of the collegiate community when the social climate of the global world is constantly changing, but I’ve persisted. Currently, I am working with community service representatives from Martha’s Table, So Others Might Eat, and the Leadership and Community Service Learning office in Stamp Student Union, to begin brainstorming programs, service opportunities, and cool things to do in the Fall. 
On a more personal level, however, I continue to wrestle with my secular occupation as a social scientist, my spiritual identity as a born-again Christian, and my socio-sexual identity as a queer body. In the eyes of the world around me, I make the perfect combination of complexity needed in today’s Academy, to offer myself and my talents to students who may relate. However, in my very conservative Christian upbringing, it’s quite the opposite. The beauty, however, that I am realizing over and over, is that every Christian has a purpose, and no person’s purpose is of lesser or greater value than the next. And so, as I continue contemplating God’s asking of all us Christians, to act justly, love freely, and most of all, walk humbly with Him in all that we aspire to do, I take comfort in knowing that God knows what is best for me.  While I may not be educating youth from behind a pulpit, perhaps, I can educate youth in my own unique way without devaluing my identity as a Christian.
Melva Coles
L3 Intern

Where are the Young People?

For those who didn’t hear me speak on Overture 05-05:

“Where are the young people?” As a young woman at General Assembly, this is the question I have constantly been asked.  Everyone in this room has either asked this question or been asked this question. I’ll tell you where the young people are:

They are not invited to the table by their sessions or presbyteries because the assumption is that ‘they wouldn’t be able to come due to work.’ You know how to fix that? Put in a dependent care policy.”





Courtney Steininger

National Capital

The Room Where it Happens

Yesterday was an incredibly long day at General Assembly, so I apologize for my blog post coming in a bit late, but still wanted to talk about all that happened yesterday in “The Room Where it Happens.” I will make sure to be more timely with my blog about today!

To frame this blog, I want to make two things clear about my personal background. First, I am Hamilton trash, and played Rev. Holly Ulmer a song from Hamilton while we were driving to a NCP meeting this past winter. Second, I would just like say that I am working to make my own major in Narrative Methods at UMD.  As a result, I care deeply about how we tell stories.

Our church is a safe space for all people. This is the story that we, as the PCUSA, want to tell people.  But we do little to equip people to act in this manner.  Jesus Christ is Lord of the conscious.  That is the very definition of reformed theology. We all are equal in the eyes of God and capable of making decisions.  With that in mind, we do little beyond making statements.  We need to act like we are all equal, and don’t ever call someone #justanelder. Both TEs and REs are crucial to the success of our denomination. We, as sisters and brothers in Christ, are all in the room where it happens. Including young people in this church. But our invitation seems less important than the invitation of others in our congregation. What kind of narrative are we telling?


I want to close with something a little more light-hearted sounding, but still deeply serious to me and to our denomination and Jesus’ Bride, the Church. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Yesterday I heard about a Super-Bible-heroes curriculum that reminds me how important our work is.  We are #allministers and  What To Fix, PCUSA (or my preferred attention-grabber, #wtfPCUSA) is that we need to empower and equip our ruling and teaching elders to know this. As a YAAD, I struggled yesterday with the environment of my peers and the environment of all GA as my peers in Christ.  God the Mother and Father Call us to treat each other well and allow ourselves to be opened to the way of the Holy Spirit. I look forward to committee work and beyond. This can be the counter-narrative at General Assembly.

Peace and Blessings,

Courtney Steininger

L3 Intern

Simple Gifts

Somehow, today I emerged as the new Presbyterian comedienne.


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I began my takeover of all L3: Listen, Learn, Lead social media early this morning. From the get-go, I was able to exist at the center of the Presbyterian twitter-verse with gems like my tweet above! In all seriousness, my first proper day at the 222nd General Assembly was amazing and eventful, and above all, was intimately informed by my involvement with L3, how L3 has developed my leadership, and how it has informed my sense of calling.

This week, I am#GA222 and will not be able to attend my Great Uncle Joe’s funeral. I remember sitting around the dinner table at my Grandma Marie’s  giving my political opinions when I was 15 and taking a government class for the first time. Uncle Joe said, albeit in a joking tone, that “Maybe you should be a politician.” He had confidence in me and faith in my beliefs that I don’t even know if I had myself. In Portland, I reaffirmed my baptismal calling and call as an advisory delegate. In a sense, I am now a politician, though not the type Uncle Joe implied I should be.  This memory was brought to mind as we sang “We Shall Overcome” for friends we’ve had and friends we’ve lost in our opening worship. I was brought to tears as I recognized that God places clues in our lives about our Calls.

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Today, I wanted to talk about these little clues, or “simple gifts” from God, as it were.  Sometimes this gift is the ability to make a cute joke, as I did above.  And sometimes, the gift is the song, “Oceans,” first introduced to me in college by two women on my freshmen year floor.  We sang it today as the General Assembly, and I remembered the way that those two women, sophomores who were and are my friends, guides, and mentors, affirmed to me that a secular university does not need to make you secular. Indeed, they opened me to new ideas and the new ability to strengthen my faith in that setting.

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I am also incredibly grateful for God pushing me towards the campus ministry I got involved with. Certainly, without Rev. Holly Ulmer, our Chaplain, I would never have gone to a presbytery meeting and I would not be sitting in Portland right now. This was another simple gift. The first activity that I remember doing with United Campus Ministry during the second or third week of my freshman year was to think of all of God’s signs that point to your calling. I had no idea of what to say. Today I saw directly all of God’s “simple gifts” that brought me to this Call at GA. The only way I was able to notice them today was because of my involvement in UCM and L3:Listen, Learn, Lead.  This leadership development and campus ministry experience “equipped me” to serve today and in the upcoming week.

This is what the Presbyterian Church (USA) has done for me. I only hope that after #GA222, PCUSA will be empowered to do this for so many other young adults too.  I look forward for the week ahead and will be on twitter constantly and here once a day!

I would also like to give a special shout-out to Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston for being elected as the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America’s first EVER CO-Moderators! Just another one of God’s gifts to us all! As the YAAD from National Capital Presbytery, I feel especially touched that God put me in this place to know these amazing and special women.

Peace and Blessings,

Courtney Steininger

L3 Intern


Defining “Safe Space”

How do we build community on a college campus? How can congregations build a sense of belonging for college students?


When I tell people that I intern for a chaplain, people are often confused about what exactly I do. As an intern for L3: Listen, Learn, Lead, I am called to create a community and a safe space for student reflection. The first meeting of the spring 2016 semester began with my establishing an unwritten contract to denote the conversation as a “safe space.” Despite being crafted by Millennials in a university setting, this contract did not refer to the language we used around each other, but rather the way we ourselves would allow ourselves to be open to the opinions of others. Personally, part of my idealized version of a university experience includes creating a safe space for students to discuss issues that matter to them.

Sometimes this means blogging and sometimes it means facilitating discussions on calling. During this time of tragedy, it meant coordinating a service and space for the College Park community to consider the events that occurred. “United in Compassion and Hope: Gathering in Response to the Orlando Tragedy” formed out of a campus need for a “safe space.” This space is not secular, but rather raises our interfaith and secular diversity. While the term “Safe Space” is weighted in our society and often viewed as a new-age, liberal term that refers to a sterilized environment where PC culture is propagated, there is no reason that this should be the case, however. A Safe Space is “a place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome or unsafe…a place where the rules guard each person’s self-respect and dignity and strongly encourage everyone to respect others.”

One of the official goals of L3: Listen, Learn, Lead is “Providing a safe space and opportunity to experience an inclusive, supportive community as they explore the meaning of vocation for their lives, in the midst of big questions and often anxiety concerning their futures.” The actualization of this is much more difficult, however. Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure and the right to voice their personal opinion, as well as explore other opinions. That being said, to create the proper environment for this space, significant community building must occur. After our annual retreat last semester, there was certainly a deepened sense of community among L3 participants. This raises questions though: “Was truly just forced time together all we needed to form a community? How do you actually build community?” While rules can define and maintain a Safe Space, rules do not a safe space make. Regardless, it is hard to not list some rules in a blog, so here are my top three L3 community and safe-space building guidelines that I recommend for your careful and prayerful consideration, especially as local congregations interacting with our L3 students as they spend their summers at home!

  1. Acknowledge everyone both socially and intellectually

While it is fantastic to create social spaces for young people, it is crucial to remember that young adults, especially college students, are incredibly academically and intellectually driven. Raising these traits in social settings will only further empower them to reach higher levels of understanding.

  1. Know when to use humor and when to refrain

Millennials are at once an incredibly laid-back generation and an incredibly serious generation. While we may use sarcasm heavily amongst ourselves, we are very careful to know when sarcasm could be offensive. This may lead older adults to think we are obsessed with a PC culture, but this is how we respect those around us.

  1. Don’t segregate

As I mentioned above, there is value in social time for young people. But they also want to interact with the congregation as a whole. They want to network with older congregants who may know more about the field of study they want to pursue. During Wednesday L3 lunch discussions, we had a variety of students participate, from graduate engineering students born in India to sophomore English majors. This group did not lack cohesion, nonetheless, and everyone involved was able to better learn from each other.

Happy Community Building!


Courtney Steininger

L3 Intern

L3 Session Tonight!

Following up on God’s unconditional love for us we can have
a special session on prayer:

The Prayer of Recollection (Tradition from St. Teresa of Avila)

“Prayer. . .means taking time frequently to be alone with the
One who we know loves us.”

This special prayer tradition which is done individually in silence
involves these steps/parts:
1. Preparation
2. Meeting the Lord
3. Intimate Sharing
4. Conclusion

It’s along the theme of L3: Listening practices (how we discern
God’s will for us; practicing being in the presence of God.)

Join us tonight in the Memorial Chapel lounge at 6pm!

Happy Easter! Jesus is risen!

Some great places to worship on Easter Sunday!

University Christian Church, Hyattsville
(Christian Church (Disciples of Christ))
Website: http://cucmd.org/
10:45am Disciples of Christ service, with communion served. For all ages in the Sanctuary. Child care provided.
12:00pm Refreshments and conversation in the Narthex.

Riverdale Presbyterian Church, University Park
(Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.))
Website: http://www.rivpres.org/
10:00 a.m. Worship Service
11:00 a.m. Coffee Fellowship

Greenbelt Community Church, Greenbelt
(United Church of Christ)
Website http://www.greenbeltcommunitychurch.org/
10:15 am Worship Service
Followed by Refreshments and Fellowship

Berwyn Presbyterian Church
(Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.))
Website http://www.berwynpresbyterian.net/
11:00 a.m. Worship Service
Followed by Refreshments and Fellowship