My YL Experience

My YL Experience

Hello! My name is Elijah, and I was fortunate to attend Mennonite Church Canada’s We Declare Gathering 2022 this past summer, which was my very first conference of any sort. The weekend left many positive impressions on me, and it helped me reconnect with the church in a way that I hadn’t been since the pandemic began. The worship services, delegate sessions, tours, and workshops gave me a chance to listen, share, and learn about many things that I care about.

In addition, I attended the conference as a participant of the Young Leaders Experience (YLE) program.
This greatly amplified my learning experience at the gathering on several levels. The conference was also a time of connection, where I caught up with many familiar faces I hadn’t seen in a long time, and where I discovered new friendships with people from across the country. The Young Leaders Experience was an opportunity for young people from across the nationwide church to attend the We Declare Gathering, to connect with each other and with congregations that make up MC Canada, and to offer their perspectives in conversations around the church.

Our group spent the majority of the conference together, eating meals, singing, and attending workshops. However, we also had many fun experiences that branched off from the main conference, such as board game night, a trip to the Islamic Family & Social Services Association, an evening at the Taste of Edmonton festival, and marshmallow roasting! Existing over the course of five days with this group of people turned them from strangers into close friends; friends that I would likely have never met, if not for the Young Leaders Experience.

Outside of YLE-related activities, a couple of workshops stood out to me. A panel interviewed a few leaders of churches that house several religious denominations, and I found it very encouraging to hear their stories of community. An evening of story and song with an indigenous songwriter was thought-provoking and insightful into her unique experience. In addition, I was thrilled to engage in a worship service led by queer individuals, where I heard many vulnerable and uplifting stories.

We Declare 2022 was a unique experience that taught me about the nationwide church, the world around me, and myself. I treasure the memories I made there, and I hope that many other people will have the opportunity to participate in future gatherings as I have in this one.