Many years ago, I remember being asked to attend a big event called Triennium. I had recently graduated from high school, and the trip sounded like fun. It would involve traveling on a plane with a bunch of youth from Palo Duro Presbytery who I didn’t know, only to arrive at the destination to join thousands of other youth I didn’t know. It was sure to be an adventure, and it definitely lived up to the hype! One thing I’ll never forget is celebrating Communion with thousands of other youth from all over globe, and then thinking to myself, “What is this place?!” On a side note, most of you know what a small Presbyterian world this is – therefore, it won’t surprise you that one of the new friends I made at Triennium was a fellow recent graduate named Michael Martin, who it turns out was a member of our church when I first arrived here 14 years ago…and to this day, Michael continues to support our young people as a high school youth sponsor – just one of the many things he does at our church.
Well, all this to say that last month, thousands of Presbyterian youth gathered once again at Purdue University for the Presbyterian Youth Triennium. This national high school youth conference happens once every three years (hence the name), and our congregation’s youth committee took great care in selecting a small group of student leaders who applied and wrote essays as part of the application process. In the end, we selected and sent 5 wonderful students to participate with the Grace Presbytery delegation at Triennium. Together, they traveled overnight in two chartered buses and spent plenty of bonding time getting to know their new friends from across Grace Presbytery. Once they arrived in Indiana, they participated in a wide spectrum of experiences ranging from huge worship events to hearing from insightful keynote speakers to engaging with others through small groups, not to mention a variety of creative activities throughout the week. To be sure, to participate in such an event is a leap of faith, and a healthy way to step out of one’s comfort zone in order to consider a new perspective on faith, church, and culture. All of our students had positive experience at this unique youth conference, and I’ll paste a few of their reports below (as I’m sure you’ll enjoy hearing about their experience in their own words).
You know, as I marvel at the young people I know who are committed to Jesus and the church (in a time when it is becoming trendy and popular to step away from Jesus and the church) and as I reflect on your historic generosity for youth ministry, I’m reminded of Robert Fulghum. Fulgham is the famous author of the book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” In one of his books, he writes about an important rule he follows in life. He calls it the Kindergarten Rule. It goes like this: “when you go out into the world: watch out, hold hands, and stick together.”
I love that. As we follow Christ together, let’s continue doing just that.
Let’s watch out.
Let’s hold hands.
And let’s stick together.
Keep on keeping on,
P.S. In their own words, listen to a few youth reports on Triennium below:
“Triennium was an experience I will never forget. The moment we got there, we were bombarded with greetings of strangers asking where we were from and if we had a Texas pin to trade for their collection of the conference. This welcoming automatically made everyone feel as if we weren’t alone and were accepted. As the week went on, we got to do fun energizers and hear sermons from diverse pastors. The sermons were always engaging and gave unique perspectives on the theme song of “Come Thou Font.” They spoke of our gifts, forgiveness, God’s mission for us, and that God is always with us. One of the coolest parts of worship was when we got to sing our hearts out to meaningful songs along with 4,000 other people.
We got to know some of these people through our small groups and recreation time of fun activities. We met people from all over the U.S. as well as some from South America and Asia. On Thursday, we got to see cultural demonstrations from Native American tribes and a group from Indonesia. Triennium gave us an understanding of other cultures and different lifestyles. I also got to get closer with my delegation/presbytery through travels and delegation small group. There was so much Grace Presbytery pride doing energizers in some of our own quirky styles. I will feel much more confident going to other conferences with them in the future.
Speaking of confidence, I gained much more of it with my faith from the conference. High school stresses can be hard, but I learned that God is with me and I’m meant to give my heart to him and those around. The center of the conference was based around the phrase, “Here’s My Heart.” We displayed our message with balloons full of prayers from everyone at Triennium. It was a fulfilling experience for the reveal on the last day. It was so joyful, with me also being in the great Triennium choir. We got to sing two fun gospel songs, and I loved every minute of it. I loved all of Triennium. It has a place for everyone and makes people feel like they belong, no matter their background. I think everyone should have the opportunity to go to this amazing international conference to grow in their faith and worship with over 4,000 fellow Presbyterian youth.”
“Triennium was a different, but gratifying experience. I was able to hang out with friends who I met at other youth connection trips and those from my own church. I was also able to meet people from all walks of like, which is always a great experience.
My favorite moments from the trip were probably worshiping with 5,000 Presbyterians, socializing with people I’d never met before, and watching everyone from the Grace delegation grow closer as the trip went on. Something I learned from the trip that was unexpected was how to walk up to someone that you only have one thing in common with and being able to start a conversation. I think that the trip mattered because it was a once in a lifetime opportunity were I could visualize better how many Presbyterians there really are in America.”
“My triennium experience was amazing. Some of my favorite moments were worshiping with almost 5,000 people and everyone in the auditorium singing their hardest and participating fully. Also hanging out with people from our presbytery and making friends with them. I learned about how youth are a major role in the future of our church and it matters to get youth excited about church.”