About 600 Anglican and Lutheran youth from across the country gathered in Kamloops, B.C. August 14 to 17 for the third biennial Canadian Lutheran Anglican Youth Gathering (CLAY).
Designed for youth between the ages of 14 to 19, the event provided participants with an opportunity for Christian leadership development, varied worship experiences, and to connect faith to daily life.
This year’s theme, “Worth It,” was intended “to inspire a diversity of meaning rich in faith” and to apply the question of worth to participants’ relationship with God, with the church, with their friends and their interaction with the wider world, according to organizers.
These topics were explored through six large group gatherings with keynote speaker Scott Evans through worship, drama and the arts. Participants had the opportunity to put what they learned into action through a servant event, and the two-part “ministry projects” section of the program.
The Rev. Canon David Burrows, rector of the Parish of the Ascension in Mount Pearl, Nfld., created ministry projects, a new element of the gathering, to provide a forum for young people to discuss big issues such as mining and human rights, right to water, and being church in today’s world. It was also designed for participants learn something new and to have fun.
“Ministry Projects provide CLAY participants with the opportunity to explore different areas of ministry,” said Burrows. “They’ll be given the opportunity to present new knowledge at the final large group gatherings, and young people and their leaders will be empowered and encouraged to put [what they learned] into practice within their own ministry context and faith community.”
And put the lessons into practice, they did. After hearing a presentation on the global impact of mining, participants turned off their phones for an hour to symbolize their support for mining justice. “Before they did, everyone sent off a final tweet, launching #miningjustice and #clay2014 into the top ten trending topics on Twitter in Canada!,” organizers reported on Facebook.
One project, Where the Waters Meet: The National Youth Project, explored the rich biblical imagery of water and its connection to water as a basic human right, and was led by Devon Goldie (PWRDF youth council member) and the Rev. Paul Gehrs (Assistant to ELCIC Bishop Susan Johnson). It also highlighted the gathering’s four-year commitment to engage water issues through education, reflection and practical response.
“The Right to Water was an aspect at the Joint Assembly [of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada] last July,” said Gehrs. “The Joint Assembly Declaration commits Lutherans and Anglicans to working on the issues of responsible resource extraction and of homelessness and affordable housing.” Joint Assembly delegates participated in a liturgy on Parliament Hill praying for those affected by the scarcity of clean water in Canada and throughout the world.
“The Right to Water is a youth expression of these commitments, because potable water is an aspect of affordable housing, and resource extraction can affect water quality and availability,” added Gehrs.
Where the Waters Meet is about more than providing young people with information about water security. Its two 90-minute sessions also engaged participants in creative problem solving, and provided them with tools to take back to their communities.
Goldie, who studies theatre at the University of Victoria, used an approach inspired by Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed.
“I love using theatre for teaching because it provides a whole new kinetic and visual way of approaching the topic,” she said. The group created a tableau depicting a community suffering a water-related injustice. They soon had a house, community members, an outhouse and a poisoned well.
With Goldie’s guidance, the group stopped to take a look at the image they’d created in order to identify what was wrong in that situation.
“Having an image in front of them helped them to identify a whole new set of problems,” said Goldie. Those who weren’t yet a part of the tableau were asked to join the others and help fix the picture in a way that was both relational and intentional.
“Slowly, we were able to turn the picture into a just model. Afterwards we discussed how they could use those same techniques when they went back home to engage their community,” said Goldie.
Each night, participants also had opportunities to just “hang out, have fun and get to know each other” through Late Night Spots, a combination of high-energy and low-energy activities that included dance, open mic nights with the Ascension Lutheran Band, worship, games, movies and conversations about common concerns around transitioning to university or the work force and life in general.
Summing up his thoughts on the Ministry Projects, Burrows said, “It’s about integrating ideas and actions to help participants discover that ministry is worth it – in numerous ways – both at the gathering, and back at home.”
The next CLAY Gathering will take place in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in August 2016.
– Andrew Stephens-Rennie is a member of the national youth initiatives team of the Anglican Church of Canada.