Over the past few years efforts have been made to make our annual diocesan synod gathering in the Diocese of New Westminster more relevant to our youth constituency. Youth presence at Synod is now a part of the ‘scene’, and that presence is strong. Through parish youth delegates, those under 25 have a strong voice in our midst.
At our most recent synod youth delegate lunch with Bishop Michael (for the past three years we’ve had either two bishops or a bishop and a rabbi join our youth delegates for a fine pizza feed!) our Synod Visitor, Bishop Greg Mohr of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada, encouraged young people to be involved fully in the life of their church – within their parishes and beyond. Bishop Greg told the story of a Lutheran parish where a 19 year old was not only elected to parish council, but was subsequently discerned by that group to possess the gifts necessary for serving as chair. Enough said.
Many of our parishes have very few ‘teens and early twenties’ who are available to take part in the every day workings and administration involved with parish life, but we all find ways to enable and include the youth we do have, and involve them in the life of our Anglican communities. Bishop Greg also encouraged our youth delegates to get involved with the next CLAY (Canadian Lutheran Anglican Youth) gathering in 2012 in Saskatoon – August 16-19. CLAY 2010 saw 900 youth and youth leaders gather in London, Ontario for a time of celebration, learning, and challenge to commitment to the cause of Jesus in the world. By the way, if you haven’t seen the wonderful video of our Primate Fred and Bishop Susan, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, dancing during worship at CLAY 2010, it’s a ‘must see’. If you think King David dancing before the Ark of the Lord as exciting…. Check it out at http://www.clay2010.ca. At any rate, establish a budget line in your parish NOW to support youth to attend this important gathering.
During the lunch, Bishop Michael made time for all youth delegates to express themselves to the group, and then, at the request of one of the delegates, provided background to the resolutions that would come to the synod floor during the Saturday afternoon session. Delegates found his background information very helpful, and he encouraged them to rise to speak on aspects of the resolutions they thought to be important. This happened in the afternoon, and no one would disagree that the voices of the youth delegates added depth, breadth and general quality to the debate. That’s the way it should be.
And so events like the youth delegate lunch help to build community among young people from parishes across the diocese and complement the excellent work carried out by diocesan youth coordinator, Phil Colvin, and the diocesan youth leadership team he continues to develop. No youth, no matter how small his or her parish, need feel alone in the Christian walk. Phil and the team provide wonderful opportunities for youth to meet, develop their ministry skills, and be challenged to deeper commitment to the cause of Christ. Talk about investment in the future of the diocese!
Youth delegates also enjoyed their annual synod sleep-over, this year at St. Mark’s, Kits, where Douglas Fenton braved the risk of no sleep and answered questions about synod and about the life of the church. Congratulations, Douglas, you’ve survived another Diocese of New Westminster baptism by fire.
Youth involvement at synod was also extended to participation in the Saturday worship – another important part of the youth presence among us at synod. For me, the crowning glory of all these things was Phil Colvin’s Saturday afternoon presentation and challenge to the diocese to continue the already developing directions of youth ministry among us. Thanks to Phil and his youth leadership team, and to Isaac Thorpe, youth representative on the Synod Planning and Agenda Committee, for their dedication and hard work. You allow the Holy Spirit to work among us through our youth.