The Original Five Activators:
Amy Allen Parker, ‘95
- Director of Children’s Ministry
- First Presbyterian Church, Ft. Worth, TX
Noelle Castin, ‘95
- Director of Christian Education
- Bradley Street Presbyterian Church, Bethesda, MD
Janet Chester, ‘95
- Director of Christian Education
- Covenant Presbyterian Church, Sherman, TX
Michael Harper, BA ’94, MAT ‘97
- Associate General Editor
- Congregational Ministries Publishing
- Presbyterian Church (USA)
Brandon Wert, ‘96
- PCUSA Young Adult Volunteers Site Coordinator
- Tucson, AZ
Comments from the Original Five
Before the Activators came to be, a few of us knew about Grace Presbytery’s Senior High Youth Conference and we wanted to help out. We called the people in charge of the conference and, well, they didn’t know what to do with us. They politely offered to involve us in moving some tables around and making some posters. Though we appreciated their offer, we wanted to be more involved. You see, we knew that youth conferences changed lives and, as good Austin College students, we wanted to help change lives.
It is fitting that the 500th Activator event celebrates the faithful partnership between SHYC and Austin College. In the past twenty years, we’ve gone from youth events that didn’t know what to do with college students to becoming the best mobile youth ministry program in the Presbyterian Church. Over the years, lives have been changed in significant ways.
John and Linnea’s lives were changed when they were called to Austin College. Not long after their arrival, John changed the face of ministry at Austin College by creating the Activator program. What began with a fun weekend in Santa Fe Presbytery that included the Blue Mesa, overcooked crosses, and a massage therapist named Thunder, has turned into something bigger than any of us could imagine.
Through the miracles of Facebook, it’s been a blast over the past couple of weeks for the five of us to reconnect and try to figure out what we could possibly say tonight that wouldn’t bore the heck out of all of you. Like many of you, we rediscovered our bond that, even after years of not being together, our relationships pick up just like no time has passed at all. The one thing that stuck out to us is that Austin College, John Williams, and the Activator program changed all of our lives. Being an Activator gave us a chance to use our gifts and test our callings. That’s what the Activator program is all about—calling forth gifts in Austin College students. All five of us are still active in different types of educational ministries. We know that you, too, are here tonight because your life was changed as a result of being an Activator.
Over the years, the Activators have changed the lives of thousands of people who have participated in children and youth events across the denomination. Many of you came to Austin College after experiencing an Activator event and then wanting to be an Activator.
Even the Activator t-shirts have changed lives. There are lots stories of people who have been stopped to talk about things like:
- The fact that God gave us brains & expects us to use them
- Pass on the love, the change begins with me
- Why would you possibly want to do Star Trekkin’ for food!
- And if you don’t know why Christianity is too important to be left to adults, then we will pray for you.
While the five of us are honored to be recognized tonight, we know that the Activators program is much bigger than any of us. It is about every person gathered here tonight who has been affected throughout the 500 Activator events. It’s amazing for the five of us to see all of you and to know how much the Activators have grown since it first started!
So thank you to John for making this ministry real. Thank you to Linnea for her love, undying support, and home cooked meals! Thank you to Emily and Joseph for sharing your parents with us. And, thank you to Austin College for recognizing how important this ministry is, not only to the college, but for people’s lives.
In closing, we have two important points that come directly from John’s influence on our lives:
- First, as Reformed theologians, all of the lives that have been changed through the Activators program are not the result of any one of us. Rather, the changes come from God and we must always remember this. The Holy Spirit has been working through all of us and will continue to work through the next 500 events.
- Second, it’s always good to be a little bit rebellious. We’ve heard that John wanted tonight not to be about him, but to really focus on the students. But we’re going to rebel a bit and say a special thank you to the entire Williams family for all of the years of love and support.
Although this charge was written after we graduated it is always appropriate:
As beloved, gifted, capable, and safe children of God,
Go out into the world in peace.
Hold on tight to all that is good.
Return no one evil for evil.
Support the weak.
Strengthen the fainthearted.
Honor all people.
Love and serve the Lord.
Share what you have.
Speak truth tenderly and lovingly.
Clean up your own messes.
Use the brains God gave you.
Act like gifted and beloved people.
Because that IS what you are.
And go with the full confidence
That the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ;
The love of God;
And the communion of the Holy Spirit
ARE with us all;