The CLAY band had the audience out of their seats, dancing and singing at the front of the stage. (Photo via David Klassen Photography)

In-person youth gathering “reignited” following five-year disruption

August 11, 2023

For the first time in five years, Anglican and Lutheran youth and leaders from across Canada met in person yesterday in Waterloo, Ontario, for the start of Canadian Lutheran Anglican Youth Gathering (CLAY) Typically, CLAY gatherings take place biennially. However, the last in-person gathering of CLAY was in 2018 in Thunder Bay, Ontario; the COVID-19 pandemic delayed CLAY in 2020, ultimately causing the gathering to take place online in 2021.

CLAY brings together Anglican and Lutheran youth aged 14-19 and their leaders, from all across the country, for programming related to the theme of each specific gathering. Gatherings are youth-centered, grounded in leadership development, and offer varied worship experiences in the form of Large Group Gatherings (LGGs).

Thursday’s LGG opened with an address of thanksgiving by Rod Miller, Bear Clan from Oneida Nation, Cayuga Language learner and Haudenosaunee knowledge learner. Miller also led a teaching about the relationships between earth, people, creation and the four elements.

Dawn Maracle leads a smudging ceremony at the first Large Group Gathering of CLAY 2023. (Photo via David Klassen Photography)

Following the address, Mohawk woman Dawn Maracle—who sits with Bear Clan and is the Animator of Indigenous Justice in the Anglican Church of Canada—led a smudging ceremony with the group. Smudging is a traditional practice in a number of Indigenous cultures around the world, meant to spiritually cleanse those who take part.

After the smudging, the CLAY band took the stage, giving a high-energy concert which infused the crowd with excitement, dancing and singing. A CLAY Spotify playlist was made in advance of the gathering, to help get participants familiar with the music before the event.

Pastor Aneeta Saroop and Pastor Nathan Fong took the stage as keynotes for CLAY 2023. (Photo via David Klassen Photography)

Once the crowd warmed up, keynotes Pastor Aneeta Saroop and Pastor Nathan Fong took the stage, speaking of their experiences as persons of colour in the church. They shared the experience of grappling with their complicated backstories and of narratives that got in the way of understanding their identities as a beloved child of God.

Pastor Aneeta—born Hindu, raised agnostic, baptized Christian and now a Lutheran pastor in the BC Synod (ELCIC)—discussed growing up in Canada as a female with brown skin. Rev. Saroop’s parents lived with the history of indentured servitude due to colonization in the West Indies.

Pastor Nathan spoke about his experience growing up Asian in Vancouver. He discussed how his parents raised him to be as “non-Chinese” as possible to blend in. He also acknowledged the sadness of not being able to pass the culture and language onto the next generation. As Pastor Aneeta’s father said, it only takes one generation to lose the language.

For both keynote speakers, the concept of “blending in” was a common experience. They also named their frustrations around fitting in and feeling valued, and how those things would always feel impossible to attain for them.

Toward the end of their remarks, they pointed out the role that God plays in these challenges—that we may accept our God-given identity and find hope in God’s promises.

The keynote remarks were followed by a meditation which tied in the theme of CLAY, Ashes & Embers, and then a Service of the Eucharist. Prior to the gathering, Pastor Nathan had offered his perspective regarding the theme:

Ashes & Embers is about picking up the pieces of our lives and seeing where God might be in the midst of it. Because we collectively had a difficult time over the past three years as a country, it’s a very appropriate time to explore this. The truth is, God is with us always, in the sparks of hope and the raging fires of life, but also in the ashes and embers after the sparks and flames have gone down. The trick is in learning how to recognize God’s face and presence even when all that seems impossible. This is what we hope to do this weekend: to see God with us through our stories, our relationships, and all the ups and downs that pepper our experiences, making us who we are as God’s people in the world.”

Eucharist with Bishops Michael Pryse (ELCIC Eastern Synod), and Todd Townshend (ACC Diocese of Huron). (Photo via David Klassen Photography)

CLAY 2023 Ashes & Embers runs through Sunday, August 13 at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

Matthew 10:40-42


40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous, 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

John 15:12-17

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

John 21:15-19

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Luke 11:33-36

The Light of the Body

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel basket; rather, one puts it on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but if it is unhealthy, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. 36 But if your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.”

Matthew 8:1-4

Jesus Cleanses a Man

8 When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him, and there was a man with a skin disease who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing. Be made clean!” Immediately his skin disease was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”