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September 23, 2011

We're stronger together, say Anglican, Lutheran youth coordinators

Meeting on scenic Thetis Island, B.C., 24 Anglican and Lutheran regional youth coordinators planned the future of their joint ministry work at Stronger Together 2011, Sept. 13 to 16. The consultation emerged from grassroots energy to support and connect youth coordinators who work at the levels of dioceses (Anglican) or synods (Lutheran).

“This was a really great way to gather folks together to focus specifically on their role of equipping,” said Andrew Stephens-Rennie, director of youth ministries for the (Anglican) Diocese of Ottawa and event organizer. “We also dreamed big dreams for youth ministry in our church.”

Regional coordinators essential
Regional youth coordinators are an essential, but often invisible, part of the youth ministry universe. Serving either as staff or volunteers on committees, their job is to support local church programs while staying connected to national initiatives.

These jobs look different across Canada. Tasks may include planning regional gatherings, offering pastoral support to church youth leaders, or developing resources. Some serve in densely populated cities while others drive hours between churches.

Yet coordinators share a common passion. They work to nurture the spiritual lives of young people and to get others engaged in this good work, even as some regions face budget and communications challenges.

The Stronger Together participants shared these stories with the help of facilitators Mark DeVries and Jeff Dunn-Taylor from Youth Ministry Architects of Nashville, Tenn. These men also helped direct the focus to the deeper purpose of youth ministry as well as future plans.

At one point all participants shared stories of leaders who had influenced their faith development at a young age. It was a moving exercise that helped refocus the group.

Anglican-Lutheran cooperation key
Several new initiatives are emerging from the Stronger Together gathering, and all include enhanced Anglican-Lutheran cooperation at a regional level.

This focus was a highlight for the Rev. Kristen Steele, a Lutheran pastor in Langley, B.C. and a member of the B.C. Synod Youth Ministry Committee.

“It was a great opportunity to meet with (Anglican) diocesan youth people to see how we can meet together,” she said. “It’s always nice to put a face to a name, to connect and to talk about what’s happening.”

She looks forward to working together on the Canadian Lutheran Anglican Youth (CLAY) gathering, which met for the first time in August 2010. This event, started by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, attracts approximately 1000 young adults every two years.

Similar cooperation has also been celebrated at Ask and Imagine, an Anglican-Lutheran youth leadership development program and Common Ground, an ecumenical youth ministry forum that met in May 2011.

Youth ministry belongs to whole church
In a statement released from Stronger Together, participants emphasize that youth ministry not only requires coordination between Anglicans and Lutherans, but among many elements of church communities.

“Youth ministry is the ministry of the whole church,” summarized Judy Steers, General Synod’s youth initiatives coordinator (Anglican).

“We’re understanding youth ministry as a thing the church does, not a thing that happens on the side, that it’s a central and core part of the ministry of the community.”

With this momentum still rolling, organizers are starting plans for Stronger Together 2012. For more information on how to support or get involved, email:

- Judy Steers, General Synod youth initiatives coordinator (Anglican Church of Canada)
- The Rev. Paul Gehrs, Assistant to the Bishop, justice and leadership (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada)

Links
- Read A Statement Reflecting the Visions and Conversations at Stronger Together (http://www.elcic.ca/Documents/StrongerTogether2011.pdf)

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 145,400 baptized members in 594 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

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