Generation 2008 a Catalytic Moment
Some moments are born of the convergence of the right people, the right place and the right time and the irrepressible presence of the Spirit. That was the catalytic experience of Generation 2008 at Huron University College in June of this year. This event – the first of its kind in Canada – was a national gathering of clergy, laity, youth and elders – anyone involved in ministry with youth in the Anglican Church. The purpose was to Equip, Empower and Renew those involved in ministry with youth in any capacity, whether that is the parish, through chaplaincy, at camps or at the regional or diocesan level.
It may well be that these five days will be seen in years to come as a moment that changed the church.
When I was young and studying science, I learned that a catalyst is an agent which causes seemingly inert elements to come together and unleashes their collective potential. My first encounter with 'catalysts' came in elementary school, I remember an experiment where we had to set fire to a sugar cube. By itself, it would not burn. When we rubbed ash on the sugar cube and set a match to it, it burst into flame.
The elements of Generation 2008 were renowned guest speakers, a broad range of interactive workshops, a schedule with a great diversity of activities to challenge and inspire and, most importantly, one hundred and sixty passionate participants. They ranged in age from sixteen to seventy-five and came from all provinces and twenty-seven dioceses. As a national gathering this was second only to General Synod in its size and representation from across the Anglican Church. The catalyst must have been the Spirit as the outcomes of this conference surpassed everyone's expectations, participants and planning team alike.
The schedule included many of the things you would expect to find at a major conference. Guest speakers Dr. David White, noted researcher and author in the field of youth ministry and Rev Dr. Reggie Blount, a p
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rofessor of youth formation and culture both gave challenging plenary talks. Thirty workshops led by Canadian, British and American youth ministry professionals spanned such topics as Engaging Youth with the Gospel, How to teach so kids will learn, Transformational Ministry, Creative Liturgy, Multicultural ministry, Sexuality and Spirituality and both participating in and learning how to guide youth in a variety of spiritual practices. Supporting activities included group African drumming and dancing (have you ever heard 130 Djembe drums playing at once?) and community-based learning through active sessions and small groups. Huron's Dr. Jay Koyle coordinated creative liturgies throughout the week that were both worship experiences and learning opportunities. Huron staff member Judy Steers (the program director of Ask & Imagine) led the planning team made up of youth ministry professionals from many dioceses. This group met together for over a year prior to the conference to put together the overall program. The conference was born out of our collective and creative dreams about how Huron can continue to meet the needs of the wider church for leadership development and formation for ministry.
One of the highlights of the conference was a day given over to an Open Space. During this time, the agenda is turned over to the participants to host conversations on anything they wanted to talk about and they certainly had an avalanche of conversation ideas. Consultant Brian Lisson explained the “open space” concept (as a “semi-organized, perpetual coffee break”), then people hopped up to the microphone to introduce their topics: youth ministry in rural parishes, contemplative prayer, youth ministry mentoring, camping ministry and many more.
At the end of the conference, after a stirring exhortation from the Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, a group of participants collaborated to write A Word to the Church. The text of this call to commitment to our youth is on the side bar of this article.
This may have been the first, but clearly it will not be the last gathering to Equip, Empower and Renew those engaged in youth ministry. Huron's ongoing leadership in this area, including the Ask & Imagine youth theology programs and seminary courses are truly renewing and empowering the ministry of the wider Anglican Church.