What is TFY?
Theological Foundation for Youth (or TFY) is an event unique to RP circles. Based at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), it receives approximately 30 high school students from throughout the RPCNA and puts them through two or three weeks of intensive theological study and community service. Amazingly, at the end, everyone seems to have enjoyed this grueling adventure! My experience was no different.
I had originally planned to attend TFY in 2020; but, due to COVID, my entire group was rescheduled for this summer. This only added to the collective anticipation we felt as we gathered for the first time on the afternoon of Monday, July 5th! As one of our first activities, we shared our testimonies with one another. Later, we bonded over a picnic dinner. The culture of cliques, prevalent in many youth retreats, was nowhere to be found. We found this deeply refreshing.
Diving In: RP Distinctives, Missions, Apologetics, and More!
On Tuesday, we dove right into the TFY’s main element with eight hours of lectures. We started off by discussing RP distinctives; topics included the regulative principle, singing psalms a cappella, and the mediatorial kingship of Christ. The speakers spoke in an engaging manner, ensuring that we remained interested the entire day. This pattern remained for the rest of the two weeks that we were there.
After the first day, we covered a wide variety of topics ranging from medieval church history to how to properly care for the disabled. The emphasis was not only on what we believe as a church but also on how we can reach out to the wider world. We had numerous classes on evangelism and missions. With this information fresh in our minds, we went out to the University of Pittsburgh to ask people about their beliefs and share ours.
In addition to this, we were equipped in the area of apologetics. For a few hours one evening, our host Rut Etheridge, staged the part of an agnostic professor. We were all made to think deeply about our convictions and how they are to be expressed. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and felt better equipped for future similar interactions.
Resting, Relaxing, and Relationship-Building
Between lectures, we were given free time for games and conversation. Some of the activities were structured, such as the Ceilidh dance hosted at Geneva College. On other occasions, we simply spent our time in the basement around a ping pong table. This allowed us to unwind from the hours of lectures and build further friendships.
In fact, this was one of the most encouraging portions of the retreat. It is very hard to find friends in the world who are serious about their faith. TFY, on the other hand, fostered spiritual growth among like minded friends. We were in an environment where we could talk candidly about what we believe and what that meant for our lives. Whenever we had related questions, the counselors and Bible teachers were always willing to help us through them. As we left the program, we all felt a renewed motivation to be mature Christian influences in our separate lives.
In conclusion, I wholeheartedly recommend TFY for any RP high school junior who desires godly friendships, a better understanding of his faith, and a renewed motivation to live it out in the real world.
Samuel is a 17-year-old from the Ottawa RP Church (Ontario, Canada). He spent much of his childhood in South Sudan, Africa as a missionary kid. He enjoys writing and recorded his experiences on the field in a short autobiography entitled Pursuit of Glory. Samuel plans to study Linguistics at Geneva College in preparation for further mission work. To learn more about Theological Foundations for Youth and how you or someone you know can qualify for TFY 2022, visit https://www.rpts.edu/tfy.html