Dreaming Forward: Niagara Youth Connections

 on October 25, 2022

Niagara Youth Connections, formally known as The Niagara Youth Conference, regathered for the first time after two years at the beautiful property of Canterbury Hills. In 2019 this flagship diocesan youth gathering decided to take a fallow year to reimagine the conference and build missional language to guide the gathering forward for many years to come.

An advisory team that included youth, young adults, previous staff members of the conference, clergy, and lay ministry leaders met regularly to discern the fundamental purpose of NYC, what areas needed to be safeguarded, and what areas needed change. The team of volunteers produced four missional pillars to ground us in our faith with Jesus and provide a missional map for future events. The missional pillars are:

  • Explore Faith
  • Building Community
  • Gather in God’s Creation
  • Go Forth—to Change the World

After consulting with several youth and previous delegates, it was decided to change the name from The Niagara Youth Conference to Niagara Youth Connections. The younger generation surprisingly all agreed that the word conference can sound “boring, or uninteresting” and that we should not use it moving forward to attract young people.

For Niagara Youth Connections 2022: Dreaming Forward, a small group of youth, young adults, former staff, and lay people gathered to plan, dream forward, have fun, and reconnect after many years apart due to the pandemic. This time spent at Canterbury Hills was rejuvenating and eye-opening for all. Fruitful ideas of building community outside of Niagara Youth Connections, introducing mentorship, and creating opportunities for social justice initiatives mid-week were shared during large group discussions. The gathering included yoga and meditation, swimming, hiking, tie-dye, moving participatory worship, night prayers, and daily devotions. The gathering closed traditionally with a eucharist sending everyone away feeling fed by the Spirit and hopeful for 2023’s gathering.

Here are some of the voices from those who attended the gathering this year:

Breanna (youth)

“This week has been very fun, entertaining, spiritual, and so much more. It taught me so much and helped grow my knowledge of God and the world we live in. Everyone has been nice and supportive, and I am grateful for all of them. Even though it is quite a drive to get here at the end of the day it was 100% worth it. It has been my best decision yet to come to NYC 2022 to dream forward.”

Miranda (youth)

“This weekend thing has been super fun and I really enjoyed all of the fun experiences that I had. It was really awesome to get to meet all these people in person and see people I hadn’t seen in a while. The activities planned were an amazing combination of fun, interesting, new, and relaxing.”

Adam (young adult)

“I have deeply missed attending NYC over the past couple of years. Returning to Canterbury Hills and seeing old and new friends felt like coming back home. Hearing many stories, visions, and dreams for this program brings me a lot of hope and excitement for the future of NYC. I cannot wait to see how this gathering will grow and flourish in years to come!”

Paige (young adult)

“Ever since first arriving at Canterbury Hills several years ago, it has always been a warm and welcoming place to call home. Being able to return and reconnect with these amazing people has been such a gift. Even if that means losing in Anomia a few times—a classic youth ministry board game. Taking this time to dream forward to the next NYC has been so fun and I’m so stoked to see what the future holds.”

  • Sarah Bird

    Sarah Bird is Program Consultant for Children, Youth, and Family Ministry for the Diocese of Niagara. Sarah’s work upholds loving and inclusive faith communities that welcome diverse families including children of varying abilities, faith experiences, and church affiliation.

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