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Ambassadors across the generations

Adults catch Triennium fever through special program

July 29, 2010

A group of peple in white shirts posing for a photo.

Triennium Ambassadors are adults who attend Presbyterian Youth Triennium to learn and become advocates for the once-every-three-years youth event. —Photos by David P. Young

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.

After each Presbyterian Youth Triennium, event staff  hear over and over again, from adult members of our churches: "Oh, if I could just be a fly on the wall at that event!" or "I'd love to see what goes on!" or "Why do the youth get the fun worship?"

So this year, the Triennium Design Team created the Ambassador program. Ambassadors are adults who come to Triennium and participate in any or all of the conference, but do not have any responsibility as adult advisors, small group leaders, or other conference leadership. 

Many of them traveled to Triennium with their presbytery or congregation delegations, but they are housed in accommodations with other Ambassadors. 

Sylvia Wilson, a parish associate at Oakhurst Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Ga. traveled here for the July 20-24 Triennium with the Greater Atlanta and Northeast Georgia Presbytery delegation on a ten-hour bus ride. "The kids were surprisingly quiet on the way here. I'm not sure what it will be like going home."

Wilson had a great experience at Triennium. “The youth make me hopeful for the future of the Christian Church and we, as Presbyterians, need to decide how we’re going to support youth in our churches and in our communities,” she said. 

While budget cuts to youth ministry may seem understandable in this economy, Wilson used this illustration to explain the problem: "It is as if we are investing in one mutual fund yet are expecting returns from another."

The Rev. Mary Louise Hawken is pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Willingboro, N.J. and is at Triennium for the first time as an Ambassador. "Being here just makes me want to get more involved," she said. "Now I feel I could be a youth leader. I can't imagine a Triennium happening in the future that I’m not a part of."

One of the hopes of the Ambassador program is that the Ambassadors will go back to their congregations and presbyteries and share their experiences of Triennium. The best publicity is often personal testimony.

Sam Suddarth is an elder at Jenkins Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Nolensville, Tenn. He is also the immediate past moderator of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. "It is easy to go back with enthusiasm now, right after Triennium. But we have three years until the next one," he said. "We need to set an alarm clock to bring back this enthusiasm in two years so people can get excited for Triennium in 2013."

A multicolored banner that says "Youth ministry isn't just for the young!".

A banner at Presbyterian Youth Triennium promotes the Ambassadors program for adult participants.

Iwao Sato came to Triennium as a youth in 1992 as a global partner from Japan. This year he is back as an Ambassador. He has recently moved to the United States and is starting a Japanese Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky. As a youth participant, he remembers being overwhelmed, in a good way, by the experience. This time around, he can help the global partners because he knows how it feels to be in their shoes. 

"The experiences I had as a youth keep rushing back to me when I go to worship and to small groups. It is so good to be back here," he said.

Sato also ran into a friend he had met at the 1992 Triennium who recognized him at this Triennium. They had not kept in touch over the last 18 years, but both of them have now become pastors and can reconnect in new ways, both thankful for the way God worked in their lives over the years to prepare them to meet again.

The Rev. Marci Auld Glass is pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho.

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