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Interview issue: Noah Richardson

Self-described church 'geek’ and student leader

By Sara Jewell

Noah Richardson, 18, is a preacher’s kid in Summerside, P.E.I., with a high profile in outreach work. While Prince Edward Island is still “home,” he now lives in Ottawa, where he’s studying journalism at Carleton University and working as a House of Commons page. He recently talked to Sara Jewell.

I credit a lot of my success as a student and a community member to the way my parents raised me. I don’t know a whole lot of families anymore who actually sit down and eat together. We’re a very busy family — my mother works in the school system and my dad is a United Church minister, so we’re constantly juggling schedules. But we eat together at the dining room table every single night. Generally, through that conversation came [discussions of] current events. As a child, I was listening and learning different things. I started watching the news at a very young age, and I was fascinated by it. That really fuelled my love for journalism.

It bothered me that no one was asking young people what they cared about, so I wrote to the editor of the local newspaper and said, “Listen, no one is asking me what I care about. I would love to pen my thoughts for you.” I started that in Grade 7 and did it for two-and-a-half years. It was an open slate for me to say whatever I wanted. That was a really enriching experience, learning to be a writer.

Faith is important in our family, but my faith journey has always been my own. I’m very involved in the church — you can’t help but be involved in your father’s work because he brings it home every night — but I’ve always kept my faith experiences separate from his. We chat about faith and we chat about what we believe and what I’m thinking, how I feel about church, but I’ve always gone to church of my own free will.

I was born and raised in Moncton [N.B.] in a small, close-knit church. My most vivid memory of that congregation is that twice a month we ran a dinner program for the homeless communities of Moncton. I was six years old, barely tall enough to see over the counter in the kitchen, and I was serving desserts to people less fortunate than I was. They came every two weeks, and they knew who I was. They called me by name. That really changed my perspective on the world and how I live my life. But it also changed my faith experience because it was so powerful to be involved in a congregation who wanted to be a part of the community like that.

Growing up in the United Church, I’ve always been surrounded by music. I know More Voices inside and out. I love United Church music.

I was involved in everything. I sang in the choir, and I was in drama group, and I never missed a day of Sunday school. I’m a church geek.

I’m passionate about church because of the people. I go solely for the reason that I feel moved being in the company of other people. To be able to experience people from all different walks of life and have conversations with those people.

I love the word “community.” It’s my favourite word. I love what church is because we can form a community through God. I don’t feel God is the main reason people come to church. I love God and I love what God means to me, but I go to church because where else can you find 800 people to be with on Sunday morning?

When I go into a church, I know right away if they are a community or not. If they’re not shoulder to shoulder, if they look cold, if they’re not worshipping together, feeling each other’s presence, I don’t want to be a part of that church. You don’t have to be hugging each other, you don’t have to be dancing in the aisles, but I want to know that I am welcome, that I matter just as much as people who have been there for 85 years.

If there’s anything the United Church can do to save itself, it’s sell its buildings. I love worshipping in a sanctuary, but I’ve worshipped in basements, in a coffee shop, in someone’s living room, in kitchens. You don’t need a physical building to worship. I believe in our denomination; I believe in being part of The United Church of Canada because I believe in what we stand for. I live and breathe the United Church, but I don’t necessarily believe we all need to be worshipping on Sunday morning in a church. It’s all about community, and you can make
community anywhere.

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