Christmas Joy Offering – Supporting our leaders: past, present and future.

From loneliness to connection


Writer:  Presbyterian Youth Triennium community makes all the difference

by Amy Merchant | Special to Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

The song echoed on the hill as candles illuminated the field. If a candle had trouble lighting, neighbors gladly shared wisdom and expertise on how to get the candle to stay burning.

I was 16 and experiencing my first Presbyterian Youth Triennium. As I worshiped with new friends from all over the world, it felt as if I was standing on holy ground. During the week my emotions had transformed from anxiety to peace, and from loneliness to connection. The peace of God was for sure in our midst that night.

I felt peace and I felt connected, partially because I think PYT is intentionally designed to help youth experience the best of healthy Christian community. There are a variety of reasons as to why the event is successful. For myself though, in 2007, it was the community that made all the difference and has kept me coming back for more.

The adults I met that week were both patient and empowering. The friends I made were adventurous and honest. These were different than my church relationships in Oregon, and I felt safe enough to bring all of myself to the table so to speak.

As I’ve said above, the quality of the people involved is a major aspect of the PYT experience. Fortunately, relationships that are formed at a conference can be taken anywhere else, where they’ll continue to develop.

This sacred community of people has welcomed me into their homes, grieved with me and helped me reignite the flame when my candle was no longer burning. I also love that I have a potential couch to sleep on in many states!

Over the past 12 years, my views on this community have shifted. I’m older now, so that’s to be expected. I no longer find myself in a ”what can this community do for me?” situation. I am now in the phase of wanting to serve the community so that others are able to see the light.

So I leave you with this: Who have you met because of Triennium? How have they helped you see the light?

Presbyterian Youth Triennium is set for July 16-20 at Purdue University. The theme is “Here’s my heart.” Youth attending Triennium are supported by the Pentecost Offering. Share your Triennium memories and aspirations by emailing We’ll publish some submissions at and we’ll cherish each one we receive.

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