In just a few short days, over 300 youth, leaders and volunteers will converge in Waterloo, Ontario for CLAY 2023 – Ashes & Embers.
A joint gathering between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada, youth of the two churches will gather from August 10-13 in-person for the first time since the 2018 event, Threads. Typically held biennially, the 2020 event En Route, was hosted online in 2021 due to the COVID pandemic.
For those representing the Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario Synod and the Synod of Alberta and the Territories, the trip to Waterloo has already begun by way of bus. For others, the trek is just around the corner. Participants will be travelling from as far as Haida Gwaii, B.C. and Eastern Newfoundland.
Between five large group gatherings, four education sessions and workshops, daily Home Team time and nine shared meals, participants at Ashes & Embers will have the opportunity to develop their faith alongside hundreds of other like-minded Lutheran and Anglican youth from across the country.
“There will be so many high-energy moments at CLAY,” said Deacon Gretchen Peterson, assistant to the ELCIC National Bishop for youth and leadership. “There will be keynote presentations, the band leading us in contemporary worship music, the drama team exploring the theme at the large group gatherings, and dances and games at the late-night spots. But, there will also be moments of quiet reflection through Home Team time when you’re just with your church group, winding down and checking in on what has been happening throughout the day. Some high-energy, some low-energy and everything in between. Some active, and some more reflective experiences.”
Through the various education sessions, participants will have the opportunity to listen to stories and learn from guest presenters. Geared towards experiential learning around social justice issues and the many humanitarian efforts ongoing throughout the greater church, youth and leaders in attendance should expect the four-day event to serve as a faith-filled journey. Rev. Nathan Fong of Grace Lutheran Church (Burnaby, B.C.) and Rev. Aneeta Saroop of Spirit of Life Lutheran Church (Vancouver, B.C.) will serve as the event’s keynote speakers.
“I am really excited for their presentations because of their unique, personal stories from their own experiences of growing up in Canada,” Deacon Peterson said. “They are prophetic stories that we will get to hear that should be inspirational to the leaders and to the youth on what it means to be authentic, who you are, who God created you to be, and to be proud of that. It will also encourage us as a Church to remember that we hold diversity and inclusion as priorities.”
With the first welcome activity set to begin at 2:00 PM on Thursday, CLAY-bound travellers are encouraged to use the #ClayGathering2023 and #AshesAndEmbers hashtags when sharing and posting content along the way. As always, the official CLAY 2023 Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages (linked on each word) will be the go-to source for daily updates throughout the event. For those attending CLAY for the first time, Deacon Peterson says that various support mechanisms will be in place.
“Alongside the youth, I know that we will have a lot of first-time leaders in attendance,” she said. “I want them to know that they will have this amazing experience journeying with their youth through the days of CLAY and that there will be lots of support. Whether it’s from other Home Team leaders who have done this before, or from our planning team and all of our volunteers. We have so many people in place who are there to make sure everyone has a positive experience at CLAY.”