More than just memories – Niagara Youth Conference 2017

by Adam MacNeil

The Friday evening I returned to business as usual, I was struck with what I understand is a typical epidemic: “Post-NYC Blues”.

Adam MacNeil
Adam MacNeil. Photo: Submitted

It included rather uncomfortable symptoms: a sense of desolation, loneliness and a heavy heart full of memories which I couldn’t re-live. NYC (Niagara Youth Conference) was over, school was on the horizon and yet so many memories which demanded prayerful reflection remained with me.

During my reflections I felt God’s presence lift up those NYC memories and invite me to connect the dots between what I had learned, the relationships I had formed and the new insights into my faith.

From the games we played, to the music we danced, the food we ate and the worship we shared—there are so many stories I could share. However, I will outline just three that I believe to be the most significant.

CREATION was my first piece of learning. At our opening worship, we heard the creation story from the Book of Genesis. We learned that creation can actually be profoundly messy. Furthermore, the delegates got the opportunity to learn and reflect upon the common vocation we all share: continuous creation.

One point of this biblical story is to articulate the diversity of creation. This reminds us that as God has created us, God also calls and empowers all of us to participate in God’s unfolding and ongoing creation, in the here and now. We can start by shaping our lives in love, peace, hope and justice for ourselves and the world around us.

nyc2017-painting
NYC 2017 participants learned self-expression through painting at one workshop. Photo: Su McLeod

The FOUNDATIONS of our faith was another theme that stood out for me. In an activity, we all took a block of wood and wrote on it the things we felt were foundational to our life and faith. Initially, it only seemed appropriate to name Jesus as my obvious faith foundation! However, as I brainstormed some more, I recognized there are so many things that are foundational to my faith, and it is through them that Christ’s love is revealed to me. This activity reminded us to pay attention to the foundations that enable us to build a life of faith and a relationship with God, so that together, we may do just that.

Lastly, we had the opportunity to engage in a workshop which focused on EXPRESSION. We learned that there are many different ways to express our own personality and identity. Each workshop worked in a particular area of artistic expression. I engaged in free form painting, approaching the workshop with no experience whatsoever.
In my group, we listened to music and were invited to paint according to the emotion we felt as a result of the song. Each painting had a unique pattern and design, allowing the expression of the individual to be communicated. This activity gave us the spiritual tools to go out into the world and not be afraid to express ourselves and know that God embraces us just as we are.

Through all these different lessons and more, I discovered a profound truth: we need to live in faith together! NYC was not just a conference for me, but an experience of an inclusive community where we all have a place. I learned that our faith is rooted in our commitment to each other.

NYC was engaging and empowering; it embraced us in a community experience where we can be changed, guided and find God revealed more fully.

Adam MacNeil, a grade 11 student, is Assistant Musician at the Church of the Resurrection Hamilton.