It may not be reflected in the official church calendar, but every September is an Advent of a different sort. It’s a new beginning, as our communities gather together after that sporadic, dispersed, yet often rejuvenating time of year we call “summer.”
Even though my body has been trained by years of schooling to treat September as a new beginning, more often than not, I’m caught unawares.
This year is different. By the time September hits, my mind, body, heart and soul will be deeply engaged in the incredible, heart-pounding life of the church. I’ll have already hit the ground running. And it’s all because of my summer vacation in Saskatoon.
From Aug. 16-19, I participated in CLAY 2012—the Canadian Lutheran Anglican Youth Gathering—as a workshop leader and member of the planning committee. This life-giving, awe-inspiring gathering takes place every two years, and is made up of young people and their adult mentors from St. John’s to Victoria. They come away inspired to grow into their own ministry, their own sense of who God is, and what God might be calling them to do.
This is important.
Youth ministry isn’t about fulfilling our hope that somehow, someday, young people will embrace the job of saving the church. Youth ministry is about accompanying young people as they embrace their own ministry. Youth ministry is about equipping young people to take the gospel and translate it into their own lives, their own communities and their own culture.
For the rest of us, it’s about journeying with young people as they discover the soul-shaking, heart-waking, world-changing God that we, ourselves, have fallen in love with and desire so deeply to serve. CLAY is one powerful way in which our church does this.
CLAY helps young people explore our common faith from a multitude of angles: through large group gatherings and passionate worship; through addresses from theme speakers; and through music and art. This year’s theme verse from the book of Hebrews provoked us to love, good deeds and encouragement (Hebrews 10:24-25). When young people return from the gathering ready to provoke us to do the same, we shouldn’t be surprised.
This September, my hope and prayer is that we will provoke one another, young and old, to live out Christ’s self-sacrificial love. We need our young people to remind us of the reasons why living lives of deep, profound and passionate faith is important. This fall, as we embrace the advent of a new year, I pray that we will receive the passionate leadership of the young among us.
Andrew Stephens-Rennie, 32, is a member of the national youth initiatives team.