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Next week 28 youth from our Presbytery and Northern New York Presbytery head out for Presbyterian Youth Triennium, the triennial gathering of thousands of youth from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  My first forays into ministry were in youth ministry, and until two summers ago, nearly every summer had included a week spent either on a youth trip (as a youth) or leading one.  

But, my daughter is now old enough to go on these sorts of trips and the right thing to do as a mom is to back off and give her the space she needs (even if I do miss these youth group trips in the summer months!).  It’s been a blessing this past year to have had a front-row seat as a mom and also as your Transitional Presbyter into the organization and preparation for Triennium this summer.  I am very excited about Triennium, because I know this will be a life-changing experience for everyone who attends, most especially for our youth, as they begin to engage their journey of discipleship in deeper and deeper ways.  

I want to especially thank Christy D’Ambrozio, Youth Director at First Presbyterian in Albany who has served as the registrar and organizer of all things related to Triennium for the Presbytery.  Christy has put in countless hours in getting this delegation prepared and making sure each of our youth and their families have everything they need.  Thank you Christy for your ministry here in Albany Presbytery, you have been such a blessing to us!  

The theme for Triennium has much to do with where we are as a Presbytery, and so I’d like to share with you the theological and biblical theme for this year:  

It is just one word:  “Go!”  

Go!  Forward movement into a life of discipleship.  

Each day the youth will reflect on one biblical verse that has to do with the theme of “Go!”:

July 19:   GO and see – Luke 2: 8-20

July 20:   GO and do likewise – Luke 10: 25-37

July 21:   Teach me the way

                I should GO – Psalm 32

July 22:   Let my People GO – Exodus 3-7

July 23:   The Great

                GO-Mission – Matthew 28: 16-20

From the PYT2016 website is not just information about the biblical studies the youth will engage in each day, but also about the Theme Narrative and why it was chosen.  This is great information to read and reflect upon, even for those of us not attending Triennium.  Take a look at it if you haven’t already!

This theme is as much about when they leave the Triennium as it is about the event itself.  These words come from the PYT2016 website:

“From the first worship service we will explore what happens AFTER the Triennium.

  • “Going” is not busy work.
  • “Going” is not escape.
  • “Going is not running away.”
  • GOING has the most impact when the process of going involves thoughtful and communal self reflection.
  • GOING is enabled by God’s counsel, authority given to Jesus and shared with Jesus’ disciples.
  • GOING is risky.
  • GOING is often a process.
  • But sometimes GOING is quick.
  • Like the shepherds we refuse to let our fear hold us back or stop us from being present with Jesus.
  • The biblical stories of “GOING” we will be exploring demonstrate the process of GOING. In each situation there is a NO moment or posture, a TURNING POINT (we are calling it a Turning Place) and a GO moment.
  • We are human. This means that our GOING is not perfect, or always carefully choreographed and sometimes there is failure, sin or a problem.
  • GO is a command. Go is a directive.
  • To go with GOD is to embark on a “worthy adventure.”

Our Youth Ministry Framework:

“An important part of the dissatisfaction of today’s young people with the mainline churches stems from the absence of a spiritually challenging and world-shaping vision that meets their hunger for the chance to participate in what Stanley Hauerwas has termed “a worthy adventure.” Instead, our efforts have focused on devising strategies for keeping young people in the church because it is a place where they will be safe from the terrors of the streets or the seductions of the shopping mall. Our hopes for them are modest and reasonable. For the most part, they mirror the expectations we have for ourselves. We ask no more than that they grow up to be “good” people—decent, law abiding, successful in their jobs and happy in their marriages. To this end, we program activities which are certainly wholesome, sometimes edifying, and almost always fun. Conscientious youth ministers work hard to find ways to involve youth in worthwhile service projects, and often such projects—which yield concrete results to which we can point with pride—are very successful. Of course, some youth do remain in the church, and most of these do turn out to be “good” people. But many more do not. They leave the church because it asks nothing significant of them. They leave the church because it is spiritually innocuous.”

-Rick Osmer – “Challenges to Youth Ministry” (article published in Affirmation journal, 1989).”

I invite you to reflect on the the theme of “Go!” this next week alongside our youth as they engage it at Triennium.  These same questions can be asked of each congregation and ministry that we are a part of.  The same question(s) can be asked of each of us as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  The “youth ministry framework” isn’t just for youth ministry, but for all ministry.  

What does it mean to Go?  

What sort of a “worthy adventure” is your community of faith inviting and enabling those who come in its doors or those in your community to engage in?  What does it mean for you as a disciple of Jesus Christ to engage in a ministry that is not busy-work, but instead is full of risk, that is a process that is not quick, not led by fear but instead trust in God? What does it mean to Go?

These are the questions our youth will engage this week, and I pray each one of us will as well!

Please join me in surrounding all of those at Triennium this week in your prayers.  I can’t wait to see what our youth will share with us!  Keep an eye on the Presbytery blog, they’ll be sharing with us each day they are at Purdue!  

Editorial Note: Here is a complete listing of all the information regarding the Albany Presbytery Delegation heading to Triennium:

About Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo

Shannan grew up between the Jersey Shore and Philadelphia and have also lived at various points in Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey and upstate New York. Internationally, I have lived in Scotland, Greece and Colombia. My family is transnational, my husband is an immigrant and we divide our time between the United States and Colombia. You can learn more about Shannan at: https://srvoconsulting.com

The purpose of the Albany Presbytery Blog is to share information, tell stories, and promote the mission and ministry of the presbytery, synod and beyond. While the breadth of this medium is intentionally broad, it is not a platform for opinion pieces related to business coming before the presbytery unless designed as part of an initiative to provide a diversity of viewpoints at the direction of the presbytery. Exceptions to this policy may be brought to the presbytery officers who will determine appropriateness of submissions.