But before CLAY participants headed out to Greenwich Beach, there was a full day of activities planned at the University of Prince Edward Island!
Half of the CLAY participants went to Morning Mash-Ups with the ELCIC and ACC Bishops, while the other half participated in a home team morning devotion. I was able to drop in to the Morning Mash-Ups for a few minutes to take photos, and it was one of the (many) times at CLAY that I wished I could be in more than one place at a time! The youth were asking fantastic questions and having great conversations with the bishops.
In CLAY 2014, we introduced a new activity at CLAY: Ministry Projects. This year, we introduced a new aspect to Ministry Projects: the Try Itcomponent. In the two-session Learn It component, youth participants engaged with an issue and prepared a presentation for the final two Large Group Gatherings, to share what they’d learned with the rest of the group. In the Try It session, Home Team Leaders and youth learned about an issue together so that they could bring new knowledge back to their home congregations.
During Large Group Gathering #4, youth presented several ministry project pieces, including photography, Gospel slam, an Old Testament drama piece, and Radical Welcoming.
You can’t be on the East Coast without at least dipping a toe in the Atlantic Ocean, so after the Large Group Gathering, participants boarded buses for the Special Event, a Beach Party at Greenwich Beach in Prince Edward Island National Park. We enjoyed a barbecue dinner beside the Interpretive Centre, then spent the early evening hiking trails, building sandcastles, swimming in the ocean, and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. When the sun set, it was time to get out of the water and walk along the beach to evening worship. Everyone gathered together within a circle of lanterns and prayed, sang, and listened to scripture. It was a peaceful and renewing ending to a long and busy day.
After Late Night Spots and Late Night Worship on Thursday night, Friday morning may have come a little too soon for participants! But with all of the activities happening on Friday, there was no time to be sleepy.
The day started with a new twist on morning devotions: Morning Mash-Ups with ELCIC and ACC bishops. On Friday, half of the home teams were paired with bishops, while the other half did a Bible study on campus in their home team groups.
For the first part of Morning Mash-Ups, the bishops were in the hot seat, as youth and home team leaders asked them questions about their lives, faith journeys, and work in the church. Oh, and the most important question: “Do you always move diagonally?” For the second half of the activity, participants told the bishops all their hopes for (and frustrations with) the church and the world and their own faith questions.
The theme for LGG #2 was Challenges to Creation.
After the opening songs, Buddhist monks from the GEBIS Little Sands Monastery visited the Large Group Gathering with a donation of one thousand homemade bread rolls for all CLAY participants. Dozens of youth and leaders visited the monastery during Friday’s Servant Event to learn about Buddhism and make bread rolls for people going hungry in Charlottetown. Six months ago, the monks realized that there was a need for food in the community, so they decided to work with local churches and charities to distribute bread rolls. So far, they’ve given away over 15,000. After presenting youth with the rolls, the monks shared a chant for compassion with us. In return, hundreds of participants joined in a refrain of the “Ubi Caritas”. This was the first interfaith collaboration in CLYG/CLAY history (as far as we know). It was a powerful and meaningful experience for everyone involved.
After the monks left, the Man of Green Fables shared an alternate version of John 3:14-17 – a story of how one eagle defied the rules of the food chain and made friends with a lowly mouse. He showed his family that even the lowest family in the forest was just as important as its rulers. The message that different groups must love and accept each other in order to save a corrupt system carried through to the keynote address on “Creation: Not For Sale”.
After the keynote address, the drama troupe read a Mi’kmaq creation story about a people’s search for clean water, followed by an introduction to the Right to Water National Youth Project. The NYP is an initiative that happens alongside the CLAY Gathering. The current NYP focuses on limited access to clean water in Indigenous communities across Canada. We are working with community partners in Pikangikum to install water and wastewater systems in homes. So far, a total of fourteen homes have been retrofitted.
CLAY participants learned more about Right To Water during the after-lunch home team mixer activity organized by PWRDF. Home teams combined to do water-related activities and learn about how difficult it can be to live without running water.
Ministry Projects continued on Friday with Part 2A of Learn It. After learning all about their chosen issues, participants worked with facilitators to create a component that could be shared with everyone else at CLAY.
Large Group Gathering #3, Human Beings Not For Sale, started immediately after dinner. The subject matter of this LGG was often difficult to talk about, but the production team brought it to life with powerful grace. The drama performance about the mean voices that can pop up inside your head connected with Thursday’s discussion about finding your voice that speaks the truth to others. We need to mind voices that speak the truth, not the ones that tell you to give up.
After the keynote address, the drama troupe presented a powerful collaborative choreographed performance with the ending message: “Don’t be ashamed of your story – it will inspire others. Our Creator will love me and my broken soul for all time.”
The theme verse was Romans 8:18-27, but the Man of Green Fables referred to it as the Gathering of the Logs! He told a story about a beaver who was trying to gather logs to create a dam across a powerful river, but he couldn’t do it on his own. He needed help from others, just as “the Spirit helps us in our weakness”.
In LGG #2, we were introduced to a couple that received a beautiful, perfect house for free. They say not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but this time it was the gift receivers who caused the problem. The agent asked them to keep it nice, but the video ended with a party just beginning. In LGG #3, a new couple toured the house. This time, it had a busted heating system, limited sources of clean drinking water, damaged furniture, and a slab of asphalt for a backyard – but it was still free!
“It’s a lot of work, but with the right people this house could be beautiful again,” the agent said. “And call me if you need anything.”
As participants exited the LGG on their way to Late Night Spots and Home Team Time, NPC members and volunteers distributed buns from the monastery as an evening snack.
After lunch, everyone put on their “Not For Sale” t-shirts, long pants, and runners, and got off campus for the Servant Event. The Servant Event is an important opportunity for CLAY participants to reach out to our surrounding community and offer ourselves in service to others. Prince Edward Island is a small province, but CLAY participants were able to travel to over a dozen different locations to serve a variety of different organizations. (For a full list, see here: http://claygathering.ca/clay-2016-media/servant-event/.)
Together, over 800 youth participants, home team leaders, and volunteer facilitators contributed over 2500 hours of volunteer activity to sixteen local community organizations. Participants came back with special CLAY Gathering Edition DIY-PEI dirt shirts and a greater connection to Prince Edward Island and its people.
After supper, it was time for the first Ministry Project session. Ministry Projects are facilitated by volunteer leaders, including representatives from Lutheran and Anglican organizations, Bishops, and youth leaders from across Canada. CLAY participants have the opportunity to share in discussions on issues, learn something new, and take their knowledge back to the larger CLAY group and their home teams. Home Team Leaders will be able to join into the fun on Saturday morning, with the “Try It” project option.
After a brief home team check-in, it was time for late night spots! Pokemon GO was a last-minute addition to the schedule, but unfortunately the event was called off due to thunderstorms. The dance, quiet room, games room, and Young Adult Chat were busy from 9 PM – 11 PM.
After the excitement of the Late Night Spots, evening worship in the auditorium space was a welcome opportunity for everyone to wind down, reflect on the day, and prepare for an activity-filled Friday ahead.
Despite the rain, CLAY 2016 got off to a fantastic start!
Early this morning, home teams, Bishops, and volunteers hopped in busses, airplanes, and cars with their GPS destinations set to the University of Prince Edward Island! Meanwhile, the National Planning Committee was getting a little antsy in the Gathering Office! (See below.)
The organized chaos of registration began at 6 PM. Participants streamed into the UPEI residences, and were greeted by the friendly Information Desk volunteers! They’re in Andrew Hall all week, ready to answer any questions you might have about Charlottetown, UPEI, and the Gathering!
After registration, it was time to sign up for Ministry Projects! The first Learn It session will be on Thursday evening after dinner.
Spending three to five days on a bus would make anyone antsy, especially CLAY participants! The Richard Wood Trio provided entertainment for the evening Ceilidh in McMillan Hall. The youth danced for two hours to some traditional (and non-traditional) fiddle and Celtic music.
Highland dancers kicked off the first Large Group Gathering with a routine that had everyone clapping along! Cheers went up for the Drama Troupe as soon as the audience heard the opening beats of “Uptown Funk” (with a CLAY twist) from their introduction video, and of course the band brought people up to the front row “praise pit” right away.
Traditionally, CLAY participants celebrate Eucharist at the last Large Group Gathering, but this year CLAY Bishop Michael Pryse and Bishop Ron Cutler led an opening Eucharist service, assisted by Specialist Home Team member Leah Burrows. They began by acknowledging that we are meeting on traditional Mi’kmaq territory. It’s a theme that will carry through the rest of the Gathering, with the National Youth Project on Right to Water, and Ministry Projects on relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
The first morning reading was from 1 Corinthians 12: 12 – 20.
The Drama Troupe launched their ongoing skit series: STAR CLAY! It ended abruptly, since the cast had to tow Keynote Speaker Pastor Mark Ehlebracht onstage in a boat from the back of the auditorium. He ran up onstage, and launched into the first keynote address of CLAY.
Pastor Mark opened by talking about his experiences at school and as an aspiring teacher. The first lesson he learned, once he decided he wanted to be on the other side of the desk, was that he had to get the kids to be quiet in order for them to learn. Which led him to the question: When did learning become linked to being sedentary and silent? How can we get answers if we can’t ask questions?
But in order to contribute to the conversation, we need to find our own voices. That’s not an easy task – just ask Bertie from The King’s Speech! Pastor Mark encouraged us to challenge ourselves by putting ourselves out there for someone or a cause.
“our voices must have something beautiful, true, and good to tell”.
So how can we stay true to our own voices? Rather than basing our self-worth and identity in a consumer culture, which tells us that we’re only the sum of the choices we make (and the money we spend), we can stay true to our Biblical identities. According to Biblical culture, your identity does not come from your choices, but from your chosen-ness. Our voices are liberated by God’s love, and this gift is not for sale.
The second reading was an interpretation of Mark 4: 30-32, as told by the Man of Green Fables. The “Shady Kangaroo” reminds us that just like the mustard seed, the smallest of creatures can provide comfort to many.
The bread was broken, the wine was poured, and both were blessed before CLAY participants shared the opening Eucharist meal together.
First of all, welcome to PEI and Charlottetown! There are a few logistical challenges associated with getting to Canada’s smallest province, but it seems like all of the home teams made the journey fun and friendly! For more stories from the journey, click here: https://storify.com/claygathering/travelling-to-clay-2016
There’s lots of rain in the forecast today, but we’re not letting that stop the fun!
The Gathering Registration will be inside of Andrew Hall, starting at 6 PM. Right after you get your wristbands and t-shirts, sign up for Ministry Projects inside of McMillan Hall! The Ceilidh (kitchen party) with the Richard Wood Trio will be held inside McMillan Hall.
For more information about Gathering events, check out the links below:
The first few days after CLAY 2014 are often described as a “coming down from the mountaintop” for youth, home team leaders, and volunteers alike. After a full four days of activities and three nights of very little sleep, it can be difficult to get back into the routine of home life. After four days of interacting with several hundred Lutheran and Anglican youth, worshiping God and strengthening in faith, it can be difficult to not go back to the same temptations and old habits that you left behind when you started the journey to Kamloops. What do you do when you get back home from CLAY, changed in a way that you may not understand yet , and everything else has stayed the same?
It’s important to remember that CLAY Gatherings, which are often the “mountains” or spiritual high points for many people, are not the only times that you can be close to God. These events are valuable because they help us connect with other youth from across Canada, and allow us to see the world from a different perspective. We can worship in different ways that allow us to find new meaning in the liturgy and songs that we know by heart. We learn about our place in the wider church, beyond our congregations or parishes. These experiences give us a reserve of strength to fall back on when times are hard and God seems very far away.It’s in these valleys of life where your experiences at CLAY will matter the most.
September is just around the corner, and we’ll be back to our school and work routines before we know it. In the midst of your busy lives, take time every day to remember CLAY 2014. Re-read a blog post or your journal. Look up a few tweets. Put a picture from CLAY 2014 up in your room. Pray while you’re on the bus to school or driving someplace. Then go out and become “wine to a thirsty world,” as God intended for us to be.
A recap of Scott Evans’ talks on Saturday, August 16, 2014 at CLAY 2014.
“The Upside-Down Kingdom: The First Shall Be Last”
During the morning Large Group Gathering, Scott described the various images of Jesus that are presented through churches and the media. Usually, it’s as a really, really good person – easygoing, maybe even so easygoing that He doesn’t seem to really stand for anything.
“Sometimes we talk about Jesus as though they killed him because he was just so sweet,” Scott said. When in actual fact, people sought to kill Jesus because he threatened the entire religious establishment with His subversive teachings. Scott pointed to Matthew 23 as a key passage where Jesus’ stance on the powerful teachers of the law and the Pharisees is made clear.
“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Matthew 23: 12-13
Jesus was forcing people to question the idea of how a religious life was supposed to be led. Rather than remaining focused on Heaven and the rewards to come, we must remember the suffering in this world. Jesus promises to quench our thirst, but when we commit to follow Jesus we also commit to becoming springs of life for others.
“Beyond These Walls: The Word Became Flesh”
In the afternoon Large Group Gathering, Scott built on the idea that faith and action are deeply connected. God has always sought to make Himself known, and He plans to do it through you and the Church (the community of believers). You are Plan A, and there is no Plan B. From the Fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis Chapter 3 and onward, God has been trying to call His people home.
In an age where young people are leaving the church in high numbers and church organizations as we know them today are shrinking, what does this mean? Scott made a passionate speech in favour of staying with the Church.
“We don’t give up on God’s plan for the world because it doesn’t suit our needs. Does church suck? You are the church too!”
Rather than walking away when confronted with hypocritical practices, worship that doesn’t make sense or help us to connect with God, we need to spend time investing in the church and changing it from within. Walking away from the church won’t solve any of its problems, but staying will. Scott brought a quote up on the screens.
“The church is the only community that exists primarily for the benefit of its non-members.” – William Temple
Scott added: “Church does not exist for us or for our own entertainment.”
“Faith without works is like a heart without a heartbeat” and the Church becomes the place we go to, and then leave, in order to serve others.
Note: this is a recap of Scott Evans’ speech from August 14, 2014 at CLAY 2014. All ideas are his, not mine.
That was the question that keynote speaker Scott Evans left us with at the end of the first Large Group Gathering. It was typed on a slide, along with the sentence “There is no right answer.”
So how do we define ourselves? Through our thoughts, words, actions, and projected images on social media sites, what do we say is “worth it”? Are we consistent in every situation, or do we appear to hold different values in different circumstances so that those around us can consider us “worth it” — worthy of attention, acceptance, and even love.
Throughout his talk, titled “Snakes and High Stakes — How Many ‘Likes’ Do You Have?” Scott discussed how people from the Bible attempted to become “worth it” for others, and how we do the same today.
Scott said that the question of “are we worth it?” begins in the Garden of Eden. Most of us know the story – Adam and Eve live together in harmony with God and creation, until a serpent tempts them into eating from a tree which they were forbidden to even touch. After doing so, they realize that they are naked and hide, from God and each other. Scott reminded us that in the garden of Eden, “nakedness wasn’t invented as a concept – shame was – the idea that you’re not good enough.” It was then that we discovered that we were vulnerable to the opinions of others, that our true selves were somehow “not good enough” for the world to see.
So we put masks forward, whether we’re wearing our “Sunday best” to church rather than the clothes we wear every other day, or we’re carefully manicuring our social media profiles to create the image of a perfect life. With the advent of likes, virtual friends, and followers, we now have real metrics to gauge whether or not people accept us as “worth it.” Virtual rejection hurts just as much as real-life rejection. Have you ever regretted posting about something that you were passionate about after it failed to get not even one “like” on Facebook? I know I have.
Scott used the parable of the Prodigal Son to illustrate how people attempt to control their vulnerabilities. The prodigal son, who takes his father’s money and squanders it in a way that lead him into harmful situations, is in control of his vulnerabilities. As Scott put it,
“The struggle for control is the great unspoken struggle… The ability to control our own destruction so no one else can do it for us”
Eating disorders, self-harm, substance abuse, and other harmful behaviours — we hurt ourselves so that no one else can, masking and controlling our other vulnerabilities.
The other son – the one who stayed at home, working tirelessly in the fields, is trying to mask his vulnerabilities in a different way. He’s the classic overachiever, the perfect son, the perfect worker. He’s trying, as Scott said, to “tick all the boxes” that will make him “worth it” in the eyes of his father and the society that he lives in. When he responds with anger to the news that his younger brother has laid bare his vulnerabilities, asked for help, and been welcomed back with honour, he responds with anger. Scott describes the father’s reaction:
“You already are worth it. You’re trying to earn something that you already have.”
We can mask our vulnerabilities with accomplishments, moulding ourselves into someone whom society would consider “worth it”. We can lose ourselves in harmful behaviours so that the outside world cannot hurt us nearly as badly as we hurt ourselves. Like the Woman at the Well (which Scott also discussed), we will do anything to hide our broken parts from others. As Scott put it — “Someone’s put their finger on the brokenness of my life — let’s have a theological debate!”
So with that in mind, how do we define ourselves? Do we accept our vulnerabilities or hide them? Do we let others decide what’s “worth it”? Or do we choose for ourselves, remembering that God, who knows our every thought and desire, has already accepted us as “worth it”?