Being a diocesan youth worker in the Anglican Church of Canada can be an isolating experience.
“It’s probably one of the lonelier jobs in the Canadian church just because you haven’t got any close colleagues who are doing the same kind of thing that you’re doing anywhere near you,” says Judy Steers, General Synod coordinator for youth initiatives.
Stronger Together gives diocesan youth workers-and their Lutheran synod counterparts-a chance to meet with their peers, exchange ideas, and receive support for their ministries. Originally conceived in 2010, the first Stronger Together was in 2011 at Thetis Island, B.C. A second gathering was held last year in Cochrane, Alta.
Stronger Together convenes again this fall-at the Galilee Retreat Centre near Ottawa, Sept. 22-25.
“If you are the person who has the big picture in your diocese of what’s going on in youth ministry, or want to communicate the big picture, this is the place to go to meet peers in ministry, where you’re going to have a chance for refreshing and renewing your vision and being re-inspired for the work that you do,” says Steers, who is also part of the planning committee for the event.
In previous years Stronger Together has invited a main speaker, but this year they’re trying something a little different. Some of this year’s participants were asked to come prepared with 15-20 minute talks about things they have learned in the course of their own ministries-from spectacular successes to fall-on-your-face failures.
“[It gives you] that ability to say ‘You know what? We’re able to risk failure. We’re able to try and do new things…’ says Andrew Stephens-Rennie, national Youth Initiatives team member.
“We can learn some things that we can take back to our home contexts, and maybe apply there… Not only are you building that capacity by meeting in the same room, but you’re also learning more deeply about people’s individual ministries and how that has played out in different contexts across the country.”
Laura Walton, coordinator of this year’s Stronger Together, looks forward to the positive impact it will have on participants’ lives and ministries.
“I hope people come away from it feeling enriched,” she says, “feeling like they’ve been able to connect with other youth workers… feeling like they’re taking something back to their area. This isn’t just about parish ministry. It’s what we’re doing at the diocesan level-and the synod level, because the Lutherans are coming as well.”
Walton adds “The fact that we’ll hopefully have more Lutherans there will allow… people from similar areas to say ‘I didn’t know you were over there! Can youth groups from the diocese and the synod pair up somehow?'”
Now on its third year, Stronger Together shows signs of becoming a regular event for the support and enrichment of diocesan youth workers, and that’s just fine with its planners.
“We’re hoping that it’s going to be a regular thing,” says Steers, “just because everybody who comes says ‘This is incredibly valuable.'”
For more information about Stronger Together:
Interested in keeping up-to-date on news, opinion, events and resources from the Anglican Church of Canada? Sign up for our email alerts .