Donations sought to send youth to special delegate assembly

May 3, 2017 | Web First
Deborah Froese | Mennonite Church Canada

Youth are in demand. When the Emerging Voices Initiative (EVI) held a cross-Canada tour in 2016-17, the importance of encouraging youth involvement in area and national church initiatives rose to the surface again and again. Their presence is now wanted at the special delegate assembly in Winnipeg on Oct. 13 to 15, 2017.

Since financial assistance can sometimes be an issue for youth, EVI is inviting donations that make it easier for high-school students to attend. That will give them the opportunity to help imagine the church of the future in a multi-faith world challenged by bullying, racism and inequality—issues of special importance to youth. To support their initiative, EVI is inviting financial support from donors. Their objective is to raise $20,000. Thanks to two generous supporters, $5,000 in seed funding is already in place.

“[Through EVI] we’ve been empowered and encouraged to share,” says Anneli Loepp Thiessen, an EVI member and one of the lead planners of the initiative. “Now we have the opportunity to pass that on to others.”

Unlike many wider church activities, financial assistance for youth attending this event won’t hinge on them attending with youth groups.

“This isn’t intended to be a youth assembly, and that gives us more flexibility,” says Loepp Thiessen. “We can have two, or 50 or 60 youth, depending upon fundraising and interest.”

Reflecting on the 2016 assembly in Saskatoon, which was attended by 30 to 40 youth, Loepp Thiessen notes the unique challenge faced by this age group. Only baptized church members who attend assemblies as official delegates are allowed to vote. That eliminates many youth who aren’t typically baptized until they are older. With that challenge, she asks, “How can we make them feel more involved?”

Addressing that question is key, says Katrina Woelk, another lead planner. “If youth feel empowered and involved, they might be more invested [in the future of the church]. That was my experience with EVI.”

Woelk, Loepp Thiessen and a few other EVI members met with Mennonite Church Canada’s Future Directions transition coordinator, Keith Regehr, to brainstorm ideas that would help empower and encourage youth at the special delegate assembly.

Youth will meet with EVI at the Radisson Hotel in Winnipeg, the venue for the October assembly, and engage with the Future Directions Task Force proposal on the evening of Oct. 13 to prepare for discussions the next day. They will stay together on the same floor of the hotel, with lots of fun and food to enhance their experience. On Oct. 14, youth will integrate with adult delegates at table discussions, with EVI members circulating to answer any questions they might have and empowering them to speak. Following the closing session, there will be time for debriefing.

“We’ll encourage live tweeting, open mike sharing and reporting back to their churches after the assembly ends—things that are energizing for them,” says Woelk, noting that the objective is to ensure they are as much a part of the discussion as adult delegates.

“They aren’t there because they can vote, but because they have an important voice,” says Loepp Thiessen. “We want no youth to feel they can’t come because of money, and the seed money we have received shows that others are interested in them being there, too.”

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