This summer’s Canadian Lutheran Anglican Youth (CLAY) gathering will be packed to the rafters, an organizer says-partly because more Anglicans will be attending than ever before.
“What we’ve seen at this point in time is that the Anglican commitment has increased, and we rejoice in that because it’s really enacting what we believe around full communion,” says CLAY 2016 chair, the Rev. David Burrows.
Some 950 people-about 850 youth participants and around 100 volunteers-are expected to attend CLAY 2016, organizers say. Since this is the event’s maximum capacity, no new registrations will be accepted.
Approximately 1,000 people attended CLAY 2010, which was held in London, Ont. However, registration for this year’s CLAY is 55% higher than in 2014 and 33% higher than CLAY 2012, organizers say.
The event, which happens every two years, began in the 1960s as an Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) youth gathering but was opened to Anglicans in 2010. Since then, only roughly a tenth of attendants have been Anglican-with the exception of this year, Burrows says. For CLAY 2016, slated for August 17-21 on the campus of the University of Prince Edward Island, almost one quarter-200 of 850-of the youth participants will be Anglican.
One reason for the increased Anglican interest in CLAY, Burrows says, is that the word has been getting out.
“Within the Anglican context, there’s been some steady growth since 2010 of sharing and disseminating the information of what has happened at previous CLAYs,” he says. “Then there’s the opportunity for youth and youth leaders to expand a little bit beyond as we delve deeper into our relationship with the ELCIC.”
As Anglican youth gain CLAY experience, they tend to become more committed to the event, he says.
“If someone went as a youth participant in 2010, by the time they get to 2016…they’ve had the opportunity to perhaps experience it once or twice, but now they have not only the opportunity to be a participant, but also to encourage others and to take leadership roles,” he says. “So I think that’s what we’re seeing as well.”
The venue also seems to be a factor, he says.
“It’s in Prince Edward Island, which does not have any representation from the [ELCIC], so it’s a space and a place of ministry where the Lutheran church has not been. And so I think some of the interest there lies within both Lutherans and Anglicans in that context to come together and share with folks and with people in creative ways.”
Other draws could be the particularly engaging speakers the event has featured in recent years, as well as a relatively new element in the program-ministry projects-which allow participants to share their experience in ministry and take home what they’ve learned to apply it in their own parishes, says Burrows.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has referred to CLAY as “the most hope-filled expression” of the full communion relationship that the Anglican Church of Canada and the ELCIC have enjoyed since 2001. Participants worship, listen to presentations, sing, dance and enjoy other social events with one another.
The theme of CLAY this year is “Not for Sale,” which, according to the gathering’s website, will be explored in three ways: salvation not for sale; human beings not for sale; and creation not for sale.
A much bigger CLAY, Burrows says, is likely to mean a more exciting and more inspiring gathering, as people feed off one another’s enthusiasm.
“Having that many people means that many more people have the opportunity to be exposed and be enlivened by the Holy Spirit, and from that, to go back into their parishes and engage in more meaningful ways, given the learning, and the celebrating, and the offering that they’ve had at CLAY,” he says.
A bigger CLAY will also pose a “logistical challenge,” but the seasoned core of the event’s planning team is up to it, he says.
“The leadership from the national office from both the Anglican Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada has been fantastic, and the abilities for folks to communicate and show leadership in this way has been excellent,” he says.
“I don’t think it should be too stressful. We tend not to stress too much on the east coast,” says Burrows, who is also rector of the Anglican Parish of the Ascension in Mount Pearl, Nfld.