As I walked in to worship three years ago, all I could feel was excitement and anticipation for what was to come over the next five days. Then more than 500 youth started to sing, the cross at centre stage was illuminated, and my emotions changed instantly. I have had some wonderful spiritual experiences at Christian youth and leadership conferences throughout my life, but I can honestly say that I had never had the blessing of a single moment—of faith, of humility, of peace—like I experienced at worship that night. It was the spiritual encounter that would set the tone for the rest of my CY06 experience—and for the next several years of my life.
Canada Youth is unique in that it transforms a university campus into one big church. Because the conference track participants are required to stay on campus at all times during the event, CY becomes very much like its own society, with no influence from the outside world. It is very easy to feel a sense of fellowship—to forge and maintain deeply personal relationships with other youth there. It has been three years since I last attended CY, but I still talk to several of the people from my small group at CY06, and it was with great excitement that we even planned a mini-reunion of our 2006 group to occur this year at CY09. Even more important than the relationships built with people, however, was my relationship with God, which was strengthened greatly through CY. I came home with renewed faith and a heart full of love for my Lord and Saviour like I had never experienced before.
The effects of Canada Youth did not end for me when I returned home. A group of eight of us from various congregations throughout Calgary decided we wanted to take what we’d learned at CY and serve others in some form of ministry. With that goal in mind, we formed the youth worship band Blind Vision. For the next two years we played at churches and special events throughout Calgary and the surrounding area, including the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and our presbytery’s annual fall youth retreat.
Many people have heard that Canada Youth is a time of fun, laughter and friendship for young people from Presbyterian churches across the country. What they may not realize, however, is that it can also be one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of a youth’s life.
To the youth and young adults who have come home fresh from a “mountaintop” experience at CY09: don’t let that energy for God fade just because the event is over. Share that passion with your congregations, whether it is through a photo slideshow, a worship band, a youth service, or any other creative outlet that comes to mind.