People always say, when you begin again, it’s best to go back to the start.
So that’s what we did.
Picture me, brand new to the Fifth Avenue church staff, not even sure how to get to the Chapel balcony or how to request a stop on the M5, finding my way to the Archives. It was early in my first month when I emailed Dale Hansen, our Archives director, and asked him to pull everything he could on the history of young adult ministry at the church.
Dale did not disappoint. Together, we spent a day walking back in time.
On that cloudy Tuesday morning in October, I learned that the young adult ministry here at Fifth began in 1889. As far as I know, that may be one of, if not the oldest, young adult ministries in our PC(USA) denomination.
In those early days the group was called the Young People’s Association, and their work mainly focused on young adults helping teenagers.
Over time, the ministry evolved. By the 1960s, the young adult ministry had a roster with hundreds of names. The Corning Logan Room was reserved for just the young adults, who hosted their own specific coffee hour every Sunday. The Romeyn Room was the young adult office, where volunteers printed and mailed hundreds of newsletters each week. There was a leadership team with a president, treasurer and secretary. They held annual balls with live bands and dancing until midnight in Jones Auditorium. And there were even membership fees that individuals had to pay to be a part of the group! Can you imagine?
During this season of incredible growth and life, the group adopted a new name: Fifth Avenue Young Adults, or FAYA for short.
Since that heyday of young adult ministry, churches have seen a general decline in attendance. The young adult ministry here at Fifth has shifted in form and in size, moving through several different seasons of identity and focus. With these different seasons and different staff, the name FAYA was replaced with NEXT Ministries, and then later on with the name “20s + 30s.”
As I sat in the archives flipping through black and white photos and decades old newsletters, it was clear to me that our history was something to be immensely proud of.
The young adult ministry is what it is today, because so many members of this church have prioritized it. From hiring staff to supporting the young adult budget, electing young adults into leadership positions and recognizing the challenges that can come with being alone in this big city, the church has kept this ministry alive.
The number of Christians in the US might be declining, but young adult ministries are actually growing. Therefore, I began to wonder—what would it feel like to honor our foundation, and to celebrate the good work that this ministry has done, by bringing the name FAYA back?
At a dinner together in November of 2021, I posed the question to the young adult group; should we return to our roots? Should we let go of the name “20s + 30s,” and reinstate the name FAYA?
The response was almost unanimous.
The young adults could see what I saw that day in the archives, which is that we are part of a bigger story, and that that story is one of connection, faith and joy.
Therefore, I am so honored and delighted to share that the young adult ministry is returning to its roots.
We are proud to follow those who helped pave the way long ago.
We are inspired by their commitment to one another and this church.
We are hopeful that this ministry will continue to evolve and grow for decades to come.
And we are confident that in all seasons, God has been near.
You can call us FAYA now.
We went back to the beginning and found God at work.
Rev. Sarah A Speed