asia-lerner-story1.jpgThis summer, I am serving at Atlanta’s Shallowford Presbyterian Church through the Candler Advantage internship program. I’m primarily a youth intern, but the amazing staff is opening a lot of formative opportunities for me throughout the church’s ministry. I first found Shallowford when I was searching for a Contextual Education site for my second year. I was most intrigued to intern here because of their ALL woman staff! Growing up, I was barred from pastoral ministry because of my gender, so when I saw Shallowford’s staff, I knew I would be in an affirming environment as a budding minister. I hope through this internship I can see if the PC(USA) denomination is one that I can find a home in, and I also hope to discern whether or not full-time ministry could be in my future.

Shallowford has been described time and time again as a neighborhood church, and it truly fits this description. The church draws most of its congregation from the surrounding neighborhoods and school systems, and we have a strong youth program because of this. One of the beautiful things I have gotten to witness so far at Shallowford is the intergenerational relationships that exist across age and gender, and the mutual respect between the youth and the older congregants at the church. This has continued even throughout the pandemic because of virtual Bible studies, confirmation programs, and other online events. As the church is opening back up with the increased vaccinations amongst congregants, I have been able to witness this in person as well. I am currently overseeing and directing our month of mission work in the community, and I have the rewarding experience of connecting with members of every generation in the church. 

Something that surprised me so far in my time at Shallowford is that my love and joy for ministry is continuously being restored. I was very hurt by my evangelical past and felt like giving up on church for a long time. But being at Shallowford has been a healing experience, and one where I have been affirmed time and time again. The love that I have received from this congregation and from this staff is something that I will cherish for a very long time.