It’s a command performance. All six ELCIC bishops are invited and expected to attend our Canadian Lutheran Anglican Youth conferences every two years. But it’s a command performance that I, and I trust all of my colleagues, look forward to. This year’s gathering was held at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario and I’d like to share some descriptive impressions of the participants that came to me over the course of our days together.
These kids have a very deep faith and are eager to go deeper. In an era of twelve minute sermons it is startling to see how these kids hang in, and indeed relish, a daily agenda that includes HOURS of spoken word proclamation from multiple presenters over the course of morning, afternoon and evening sessions. Impressive and humbling.
Music is REALLY REALLY Important. It is such a buzz to worship with this crew. Their singing and dancing is exuberant and free! When well led – and they were – these guys gave the fullest possible expression to the biblical phrase “joyful noise!” The sound loops are still playing in my head weeks later.
They are respectful, polite, well-mannered and well behaved; all the stuff moms and dads want to hear! Every time I go to these events I talk to the onsite staffers to see what they think of our crew. Invariably they tell me that their behaviour and demeanor are exceptional. Hearing that makes me feel awful proud!
They crave authentic community and embrace it with delightful exuberance. At CLAY, everyone was welcome. The cool kids and the not so cool. It didn’t matter. There was a place for everyone! It was so refreshing. I reflected on this last week when I read an article that identified young people between the ages of 18 and 22 as the loneliest generation in North America. I think the church has the potential to offer something in this regard and CLAY proved it in spades.
They have known and experienced pain in their relatively brief lives. During one large group exercise, folks were asked to move into or out of a circle based on their response to a series of questions. I was stunned when the vast majority of participants self-identified as having considered harming themselves in some way at some point in their life. My heart ached.
The adults who lead, accompany and care for the youth of church are absolute saints! At events they carry a dawn to dawn responsibility with grace and consistent good-humour! Their discipleship is exceptional. Search out your local home team leader and say thanks. They sure deserve it!
Our kids – and their leaders – care about and have bold hopes for our church and what it might become. They don’t, however, feel that they have a voice in our life. Many of them don’t go to church all that often.
So here’s my challenge to our rostered and congregational leaders. Could you create an opportunity to bring your area CLAY participants together sometime this fall for a conversation? Ask them what they experienced. Ask them what they learned. Ask them about their hopes and dreams for our church. They will tell you. All you need to do is ask.