young man in dark glasses on waterfront
Noah Richardson, 18, of Summerside, P.E.I., is a United Church minister's son and passionate about young adult mission work (Photo: Jude Wood)

Topics: UCC in Focus | Interview

United Church member Noah Richardson on being a youth ‘church geek’

High school student president, junior mayor of Summerside and newspaper columnist he now studies journalism in Ottawa and is a House of Commons page


Noah Richardson spoke with Sara Jewell for a series on Intriguing United Church people you may not know but should.

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 peoplefrom 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.


This story first appeared in The United Church Observer’s November 2014 issue with the title “Noah Richardson, ‘church geek’ and student leader.”


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