Eight years ago, the Rev. Mary Paik had a vision to create space and opportunities for Asian American young adults to grow in leadership and explore their sense of call and vocation in light of their unique
experiences and identity. With generous support from both the Lilly Endowment and McCormick Theological Seminary
, this vision took shape in the form of the AADVENT (Asian Americans for Discipleship, Empowerment, Nurture and Transformation) Project.
Between the years of 2004 and 2008, under the guidance of both Rev. Paik and the Rev. Laura Mariko Cheifetz, the AADVENT Project provided hundreds of Asian American young adults the opportunity to grow in leadership and think critically about God’s work in the world. Whether it was at Multiple Choice: This Asian American Life
, Let’s Get Biblical
, Respon d: What Will Jesus Do With You?
, or reflecting on our Untold Stories
, the young adult conferences introduced many to the intersections of our faith commitments and God’s call on us to participate in God’s work. Young adults who wanted to take that exploration to the next level were given the opportunity to do so at the Taste of Seminary
seminars. Through Taste of Seminary, many young adults went on to study theology and ministry at various seminaries and divinity schools.
In 2009, in collaboration with McCormick’s Center for the Study of Latin@ Theology and Ministry
, Center for African American Ministries and Black Church Studies
, and the Center for Asian American Ministries
, the vision of AADVENT expanded. The Common Ground Project
was born, offering leadership development and vocational exploration for Latin@s and African Americans, in addition to Asian Americans. The vision of difference building connection for a more enriched and thoughtful church leadership was expanded. Under Rev. Cheifetz’ leadership, the work of Common Ground grew to include opportunities for pastors of color
to network and grow together.
After having benefitted from the ministry of AADVENT and Common Ground, I came on as the director in 2010 and added my efforts in shaping the Next Generation Consultation
and the Next Generation Mentoring
program. The year 2011 marks the conclusion of the Common Ground Project and many could witness to its transformative work in helping to nurture and shape leaders of color from across the country, and from a diversity of backgrounds. As some of you know, we had hoped to provide a home for some of the Project’s programs. However, things did not turn out as we'd hoped and so the work of nurturing and empowering young adults of color to live into God’s call on their lives is for you to carry forward in your various places of work and ministry. We are so thankful for the generosity of the Lilly Endowment
and I encourage you to share with them your own experiences of transformation and growth through AADVENT and/or Common Ground, urging them to fund simliar initiatives that support communities of color.
It is the Advent season, when we both await and celebrate the birth of one who would reconcile the world with God. And, with the conclusion of Common Ground, we also celebrate and wait. We celebrate that this project has offered a reflection of God’s imagination across the diversities of the church, even as we await this reflection in fullness. We remember and give thanks for Rev. Paik’s vision and the support of many others who helped to make it a reality!