You are here

Memories of Youth and the Westminster Fellowship

April 11, 2013

“Changing trains on the way to Grinnell Iowa – Westminster youth assembly,” Mora Mae Collins Gilley Scrapbook, 1950.

Many young Presbyterians in the 1940s and 1950s participated in Westminster Fellowship programs. Whether through summer camps, youth conventions, Bible studies, or service projects, Presbyterian youth ages 12 to 23 joined together to enhance their relationships with God, the church, and their peers all over the world.

A major gathering of Presbyterian young people occurred in the summer of 1950 when representatives from forty-five states descended upon Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, to attend the second Westminster Fellowship National Assembly. Modeled after the General Assembly of the PCUSA, the gathering provided “an occasion for deep thinking, and penetrating examination of beliefs.” Activities included miniature assemblies, seminars, worship, lectures by Presbyterian leaders, singing, sports, and publication of a daily newspaper, all focused on the theme “Set Aflame His Story.” Of the 1,800 high school and college-age delegates, forty were from foreign countries and mission stations. The start of the Korean War as delegates traveled to the National Assembly generated particular concern for attendees, including the Korean youth representative, Kyung Ho Lee, a student at Penn State University.

Korean delegate Kyung Ho Lee reviews news of the Korean War with two other Westminster Fellowship National Assembly student representatives. (Presbyterian Life, July, 22, 1950, p. 24)

During the assembly, youth discussed and debated other pressing issues of the day.  Delegates supported the call for a non-segregated Church and society, and wrestled with the issue of academic freedom in public schools. Through Westminster Fellowship, Presbyterian youth created new venues for worship, work, study, and friendship that helped them “discover God’s will for their lives” and participate in a larger youth movement centered on their faith. If you participated in Westminster Fellowship programs, share your experiences in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

The official emblem of the Westminster Fellowship, featuring a Celtic cross and a circle symbolizing eternity, victory, and the world globe.

--By Nancy Taylor, Director of Programs and Services