Ascend Leadership Project: Reimagining Young Adult Ministry in the Diocese of Edmonton

Young adult ministry in the Diocese of Edmonton is undergoing a renewal. In Fall 2014, eight young adults from ages 19 to 29 will move into Ascension House, the rectory of Christ Church parish in Edmonton, for a year of spiritual formation and leadership development.

Under the directorship of Reverends Chris and Krista Dowdeswell, who share the assistant role at Christ Church, the group will form an intentional community. Ascend Leadership Project interns, or ALPs, will benefit from structured reading and learning, intergenerational mentorship drawn from local Anglican networks, and the self-discovery and accountability that comes with living in community.

ALPs will be encouraged to nurture their prayer life to discern their particular gifts and where God is calling them. Ms. Dowdeswell noted that they were inspired in part by new monasticism movements, where “you structure your life around your prayer, and not your prayer fitting into your life. We’re convicted that this is what will sustain a person over time in ministry in the church.”

Inspiration for Ascend also came from the Dowdeswells’ extensive experience with youth ministry in both Toronto, where they undertook their theological training, and Edmonton, where they now minister. They saw many parishes with only a few young adults, but no real means to draw together a critical mass in community. Through Ascend, those who are invested in the life of the church, can come together “to love and to grow the church, and to help each other articulate their own sense of call,” notes Ms. Dowdeswell.

They held this need against Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church, a 2012 report commissioned by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. It underscores the importance of strong mentorship and life in community in cultivating lifelong faith practices. Mr. Dowdeswell remarks, “Those young people who had a faithful and engaged youth minister and who participated regularly in youth events and outreach, even if they came from a nonpracticing family, were those who continued practicing their faith into adulthood.”

Arlette Zinck, a professor of English at The King’s University College in Edmonton who sits on Ascend’s advisory committee, echoes the Dowdeswells enthusiasm for the project. She remarks, “It’s a beautiful opportunity for young people to experience the theory and practice of the Christian faith. We’re poised at a moment of history where we’re coming to appreciate the transformative power of community.”

The community at Christ Church has rallied around the new ministry and helping launch it by offering everything from prayers to cooking lessons to renovations for the rectory. The Dowdeswells expressed gratitude to their parish for this support; “The parish is filled with people who believe in the vision and are adopting it as their own ministry. We are really seeing them as essential partners in the ministry with us.”

Applications to the Ascend Leadership Project are now open through early May. Please visit for more information or to request an application package.






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