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CLAY 2018: Thunder Bay

LGG #1: Keep Your Sandals On

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.