Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Six-hundred youth and leaders from across Canada will converge on Ottawa July 6-9 for the triennial youth gathering of Lutheran Church-Canada. While in the nation’s capital the youth, between the ages of 13 and 18, will celebrate their Christian faith and put it into action by helping a local agency, Christian Horizons, and holding a prayer vigil on Parliament Hill.
The group’s major events are in Ottawa's Centre Point Theatre, while nearby Algonquin College serves as the residence. The theme “I am...” is designed to help the young people discover who they are as people of faith and their place within society and the church. Plenary sessions feature music, stories and drama. In between, the youth have time for fun, games, Bible study and unique Sunday pilgrimage in nearby Ryan Farm Park. Guest speaker, Joel Sonnenberg will speak to the youth about his experience as a survivor of a car accident where he suffered burns over 85 percent of his body.
“We try to pack a lot into these five days,” says Lori Schultz, chair of the planning committee. “With a three-year cycle, most of these kids will only get to attend one, so we have to make it special for them.”
Across Canada youth groups have held dinner theatres, washed cars and undertaken countless fund-raising projects to help get them to the gathering. In one Winnipeg congregation, adult members donated airline miles to fly their youth to Ottawa.
The planning committee from across Canada began its work almost two years ago. Planning groups each focused on specific events to help develop the theme. “Canada is a huge country in which to plan a national event like this” says Schultz. “We rely on groups across the country to plan their specific event and we meet to take a look at the whole gathering only 4 or 5 times in 18 months.”
This is the seventh such gathering in the church’s 19 year history. Previous gatherings in venues such as Brandon, Manitoba; Waterloo, Ontario and Vancouver have been pivotal in the lives of many who have attended. Parents have reported some dramatic changes in attitude as a result of a teen attending a gathering. “Many of our teens feel isolated when it comes to their faith," Schultz explains. “To spend five days with hundreds of their peers who believe the same things is a phenomenal affirmation for them.”
Winnipeg-based Lutheran Church-Canada has 329 congregations from Nova Scotia to B.C. and a membership of more than 75,000.