Lutheran, Anglican youth convince elders to Listen Up

Published October 1, 2004

Hamilton, Ont.

About 1,600 Lutheran youth — and a few Anglicans — from across Canada gathered at the Convention Centre here Aug. 12-15 for four days of prayer and reflection, song, dance, games, and yes, some side trips to local attractions.

For the first time 24 Anglican youth from various dioceses joined the gathering, Listen Up, as an expression of support for full communion between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) forged in 2001. (An Anglican youth was also involved in planning the event.)

The gathering, held every two years, “is one of the most significant faith-building activities we’re doing,” said ELCIC national bishop Ray Schultz in an interview. “There are second and third generation Lutherans here. The grandchildren of the original leaders are here.”

In many ways, he added, it provides youth the spiritual anchor that they need to keep their faith alive. “Most of them come from little congregations in Canada,” said Bishop Schultz. “It provides them with reinforcement that having faith is not an odd quirk that you have as an individual; that you belong to a wider community.”

This view was echoed by Lutheran youth Mindy Vaksdal. “You realize that it’s okay to proclaim your faith, to believe in God and to openly do that,” she said in an interview. “Young adults are sometimes scared that it’s not cool to have faith. So this allows you to step out of that.”

The large group gathering at the Convention Centre’s Hamilton Place auditorium reflected that youth with faith are just like any other youth: They danced, jumped and swayed to the beat of a rock band (which, in this case, provided religious pop-rock music), and laughed at a sleek multi-media presentation (cartoons which segued into video, drama, dance and music) about hard choices they have to make as young adults in transition to the “real world.”

This year’s theme was really “for older youth who are wondering what you’re called to do in life,” said Ms. Vaksdal. “Sometimes you get wrapped up in what’s the best university and what’s the best career that you forget what your gifts are. What this is saying is, ‘Stop, listen to God, and you’ll figure it out.'”

For Lutheran adults who attended as mentors, it was an opportunity “to experience God through some of their own (youth) culture,” said Rev. Elaine Sauer, assistant to the national bishop. “We live in their culture for a few days and see where God is active in their lives.”

For the Anglican youth who attended the event, it was extraordinary to see such a large gathering of youth. The Anglican Church of Canada has had no national youth program since 1995.

“There’s so many more people,” said Stephanie DeForest, one of six delegates from the diocese of Niagara. “We’re used to a maximum of 150. But it’s great to be here.”

Deirdre Henry noted some similarities. “We have the same upbeat music.”

Ms. Sauer said the ELCIC is planning to send a video of the conference to all Anglican dioceses across Canada so that more Anglican youth will be encouraged to attend the next gathering.

Other Anglican youth who attended were from parishes in Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Edmonton, plus Brantford, Guelph, Welland and Eganville, in southern Ontario.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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