Rendez-vous, the United Church’s national youth and young adult conference, was held earlier this month, August 10-14. Originally planned as an in-person gathering to be held in Calgary, when the threat of COVID-19 applied for registration the event was re-imagined as a 4-day online gathering, filled with worship, workshops, keynote presentations, and social activities, hosted on a combination of the Whova conference app and the Zoom videoconferencing platform. Approximately 400 people took part.
A number of people from the wider CCS community took part in the event. CCS student Alana Martin and alum Vicki McPhee were on the design team. Vicki was the chair of local arrangements, which takes on a new meaning when there is no “local”. Vicki welcomed participants on the first day and introduced keynote speaker Pam Rocker on the second day. Alana, who is the lead minister on the GO Project, hosted an online mission activity and was a panelist in a well-attended discussion on racism and the church.
Also on the design team was Jeff Laforet, partner of CCS alum Deborah Laforet. Deborah had been planning to attend Rendez-vous in Calgary with a group of youth from her congregation in Oakville, but when plans changes they decided to camp at Brone Provincial Park and join other Rendezvous folk around the country on Whova for workshops, keynote speakers, and worship. (“We used TONS of data!” says Deborah.) Meanwhile, they slept in tents, ate camp food, and sat around the campfire with spider dogs and s’mores. “Although going to Calgary would have been wonderful, we had become a very close-knit group by the time we packed up to go home.”
CCS student Jen Prince promoted Rendez-Vous to her youth at Siloam United, and registered hoping to convince some of them to join her. She was unsuccessful. “I had hoped that the teenagers in my house might attend, but ‘There’s this really cool church event that you could take part in with your mom!’ surprisingly brought forth the eye rolls. So finally, I decided to attend so that i could a) learn some cool new stuff and b) have a better argument next time for my youth to join me.” Jen loved the event and was grateful for the online flexibility, since she was still doing her regular work and “momming”.
CCS staff member Scott Douglas volunteered as a homegroup leader at Rendez-Vous, meeting online each day with a small group of participants. “What a lovely bunch of young adults they were! Many of them responsible for leading youth groups, some of them about to embark on preparation for ministry, almost all of them conscientiously working through the challenges of balancing faith life and other responsibilities.”
Scott and principal Michelle Owens were part of a workshop on theological education, along with Julie Lees from Vancouver School of Theology and Andrew Aitchison from Emmanuel College. It was an opportunity to talk about the value of theological education, as preparation for ministry or as preparation for a life of faithful integrity and wrestling with ultimate questions.
Other highlights of the event included an hour with delightful Cree elders Charlene and Russell Burns starting each day with wisdom and kindness; worship organized by our friend Kenji Marui and incorporating participation from across the country; and a keynote address by Dr. James Makokis (who is many things, including a winner of last year’s Amazing Race Canada with his partner Anthony).
It would have been nice to be there in person; to chat with people in the halls, to sit down for meals together. But even in an online format, this was a meaningful gathering.