This weekend was the Annual Meeting of Maritime Conference of the United Church of Canada. On the floor of the conference lots of business work was done. Some motions were made. Some debating was done. And so on and so on.
But I missed almost all of it. I was with Youth Forum this year as one of their chaplains.
I spent the weekend with around 80 youth from across the Maritimes and Bermuda singing, praying, laughing and learning with one another.
This year’s theme as “Active Compassion” where the youth were asked to engage in talking about compassion for self (accepting who we are and not through the eyes of others), compassion for the other (how our words and actions make others feel) and compassion for the world (how we treat the earth and all that is in it).
The youth were amazing. They really engaged fully in the weekend and the program. Whether singing and dancing boisterously or quietly spending time in prayer (they engaged in an hour and a half of prayer stations) the power of the Spirit was among us all.
From the directors (yay Nate and Char!), the amazing facilitators and planning team and my friend Gloria as the other chaplain, the weekend went extremely well. There were many “God moments” for me that I will never forget. From the skits the youth put on, to some of the discussions I had with them either one-on-one or in their small home groups, there is much to cherish about this generation of the United Church of Canada.
But there were two very special moments I want to write about.
The first I will share is our closing worship service on Saturday night. This service is centred solely on communion. I was asked to try to involve story and an invitation to story telling in the passing of the elements.
The service is held in our large group room with the smaller home groups sitting together in circles. I invited them into this sacred time for a sacred meal as we prepared to go our own ways home the next day. This was done standing among them, which led us into singing some choruses as the band and worship leaders walked around the darkened room. This continued in prayer, and the telling of the last supper. After distributing the elements the youth shared the meal together and entered into some story-telling of their own. I fully expected this to last just a few minuted. After about 5 I invited them to continue as they wished and to simply bring the remaining elements back to the communion table as they were ready to close. Another 5 or so minutes passed as groups laid on the floor huddled together sharing, giggling and being community. After a closing prayer we sang again and the group reunited in a large circle holding, arms around each other in the moment.
Some tears were shed. Some laughter was heard. It was a very powerful service. One I will not forget. I wish I had a picture, but it was simply too dark to even consider taking one, had I even thought of it in the moment.
The second memorable moment happened just a few hours before the communion service. As part of the weekend the youth are invited to prepare skits reflecting on their weekend and interaction with the program. One group came up and a teen shared a song she wrote just a few months ago. She later told me it was on YouTube, and so I share it with you now.
When she had finished (it was interspersed with words from the rest of her group) I looked at the people around me, and every one of us had tears in our eyes (as you might right now too).
I hear people say, “Kids don’t care about spirituality… They don’t care about the church…”
I can tell you about this weekend you are completely wrong. They embraced prayer. They embraced the music. They entered fully into the holy sacrament of communion. They not only embraced it, I’d go so far as to say they craved it.
Yes, what we did would be very foreign to what congregations would expect. I think that speaks volumes to our churches and should really cause us to rethink how we do church.
Here’s what I came home with after a weekend with our many wonderful youth.
(more to come in the days ahead)