canadian youth workers conference, sunday morning

last night’s general session was one of those rare moments that will go down in convention lore. tic and i will be talking about this for years; not because it was flashy or slick, or extra funny; but because it was a still and quiet god thing.

when we agreed with this sheraton to hold our conference here, they had the main ballroom booked for something this saturday night. our plan was to move out for one session. first baptist church of vancouver (where stan grenz’s widow, edna, is still the worship pastor) is kitty-corner from the hotel, and they agreed to host us.

now, the evening was amazing because god showed up in some powerful ways. but god also showed up in the little tiny details. like: it was snowing tonite. and walking over to the church, all bundled up, while the snow slowly and softly fell, brought a peace and stillness to this downtown street. then, god was in the architecture of the church. it’s an old-skool downtown baptist church, with a wrap-around balcony on three sides. our 900 youth workers fit perfectly in the space, and the entire thing felt warm and imtimate. jeff johnson, accompanied by a stunning viola player and a virtuoso flautist, led us in a half hour of contemplative worship. hearing the 900 voices join together in that intimate space was (forgive the dramatic wording, but it’s the best word i can think of right now) rapturous. there was a section where we were all being quiet, except a baby who was cooing in the back of the sanctuary. normally this would bug me. but last night it choked me up: it was (at least for me) a reminder of the incarnation. and then we sang about emmanuel, god with us.

we brought three youth workers to the stage to tell their stories. one was a part-time female pentacostal firecracker from a semi-rural town, one the asian director of youth ministries for the catholic archiocese of vancouver, and one a black french-speaking quebecer. their stories were a beautiful snapshot of the tapestry of youth workers represented here.

then the speaker. omg. a local canadian woman named joyce rees. i’d not heard of her prior to this: she leads a ministry called jacob’s well in the toughest neighborhood of vancouver. we assumed she would speak on justice and the poor, her normal topic. she has assumed she would speak on that also. but she felt god nudging her (not knowing all the other stuff we had planned for last night) to speak on rest and sabbath. it was abso-freakin’-lutely amazing.

then melinda, our co-mc, lead a time of prayer for those in the room who were feeling especially worn out and beat down. it was gorgeous.

the killer thing about the night for me, apart from how beautiful all these elements were in and of themselves, was that we didn’t plan it to have this thread, this theme.

9 thoughts on “canadian youth workers conference, sunday morning”

  1. I’m so glad you had the chance to hear Joyce. I first heard her about 8 years ago. Her life and the way she lives out so passionately what she believes has been so instrumental in my life. I believe part of why I’m in ministry today is because of God bringing her into my life and challenging me through her life.
    Blessings on you guys as you finish up your conference and I hope to see you in TO next year if it works!!

  2. Thanks for this post, Marko. I love hearing, not only about how God shows up in unexpected ways, but about how much you appreciate and are open to such “off-script” moments. I have a sense that we will all experience more of these challenges in the days ahead and memories like these will help us have the soft hears we’ll need to respond faithfully.

  3. Better make that soft “hearts”. Sorry! Though hearing softly is an interesting thing to ponder…

  4. God had this night SO planned. I’m always a big fan of taking a perfectly good English 3 syllable word and inserting an expletive. abso-freakin-lutely amazing. I echo for sure. I used to pray for this very block quite often as I passed through on the bus to a downtown dreary job (before taking the red pill and jumping down the rabbit hole). what a perfect answer to prayer in so many details. I love the Holy Spirit. He has us so in his surrounding presence. And yes, thank you everyone for listening and obeying where we had the option. special, special night.

  5. It was an amazing night and I think my favorite session. Sabbath was definitely a theme I needed to hear and be convicted of.

    As a 42 year old female youth worker one thing I did notice at this convention is that there were definitely more males than females and the females were mostly young. I think Canada is behind the States in this area. That said, our denominational meeting debrief was excellent because we broke into different groups (females, volunteers, under 2 years in ministry, etc.) to discuss what we had gotten out of the conference and a lot of the injustice and hurt of female leaders came forward in our group but instead of bitterness there was a sense of claaing and perseverence and we spent the time praying for eachother.

  6. That sounds absolutely awesome. What a reminder of how, despite all the best thinking and planning beforehand, God is the most incredible rogue element.

    Wish I could have been there – as I expect most of the people who read this post and weren’t there will agree.

    (Gee, if you had a column in a British youth ministry magazine, you’d probably want to write about this exact experience in it…)

    Bless you mate.

    P.S. Brits don’t use the word ‘gee’ – I put it in there just for you.

  7. Sweet. Thanks for the description and yet it really seems like it was one of those times “you just had to be there.” Beautiful. Working with Jeff Johnson in all three US conventions was so amazing. Jeff and friend’s music in the setting you described probably merits the word “rapturous.”

  8. Thanks Marko for the nice shoutout.

    Upon first glance, it looked like I only directed asian youth ministry…haha…but upon further review I determined that your adjective placement was indeed correct!!!

    That was indeed an amazing night as part of an amazing conference.

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