The Bishop’s Youth Ministry Committee (BYMC) was delighted to be back in person this year for the diocesan ReCharge Youth Retreat. We had 87 participants from across the diocese gather on Sept. 23-25 at Muskoka Woods. It was a beautiful fall weekend, and we enjoyed time together praying, worshipping, eating, playing and even getting some sleep.
Bishop Andrew Asbil joined us on Friday night and was there to greet everyone as the bus rolled in from Toronto and for our first session. He shared about his own good times as a youth at the Niagara Youth Conference and then led us in night prayers before returning to Toronto. Bishop Riscylla Shaw was also in attendance and stayed with us the whole weekend. She made time to chat with youth and youth leaders on Saturday afternoon during free time and celebrated the Eucharist with us on Sunday.
Our theme for the retreat was Redemption: The Story of Us All. Cormac Culkeen, youth coordinator for Trent-Durham and co-coordinator for the Youth Ministry Apprenticeship Program (YMAP), was our speaker for the weekend, and the Rev. Yohan Dumpala, assistant curate at St. John the Baptist, Norway, led us in worship. Cormac shared in the first session about how the story of our redemption looks like a heartbeat on an ECG machine: it has ups and downs in the same way a heartbeat does when it’s represented on paper. At creation, everything God created was good, but it didn’t take too long before that changed.
In the second session, we spent time talking about lament and how it’s a good and right way to express to God our anger, hurt, frustration and angst with the world around us. Participants spent time in breakout groups either writing their own lament, taking part in a Lectio Divina exercise with Psalm 10, writing and rehearsing a drama to illustrate lament, or in a more active group where they built things and then tore them down.
At our third session, we read from Romans 5, where St. Paul writes, “But God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We talked about how God, through Jesus Christ, has redeemed us all. Cormac reminded everyone that God is always with them and refuses to ever leave them, whether times are good or bad. In breakout groups, participants chose to either spend time outside and give thanks to God for the beauty of creation, talk with others about redemption, dramatize redemption, or in the active group where participants again built things and this time beautified their creations.
In our last session, we had Communion together. We looked at the feeding of the 5,000+ and paid special attention to St. John’s account where he writes about the boy who brings his lunch and offers it to Jesus. Jesus blesses the boy’s meager lunch and feeds everyone to their contentment. Participants were encouraged to offer themselves and what they have to God and to watch how God brings about God’s kingdom on this earth as it is in heaven through them.
We also had a lot of time to play and explore many of the activities Muskoka Woods offers. We played Capture the Flag on Saturday morning and a very exciting game of Flame Battlers on Saturday night. In the afternoon, participants enjoyed their choice of volleyball, basketball, tennis, pickleball, high ropes course, indoor rock climbing, long boarding and scooters, as well as arts and crafts. Those doing arts and crafts designed and made a beautiful stole for Bishop Shaw to wear on Sunday at the Eucharist.
The BYMC would like to thank the diocese and the College of Bishops for their continued support of youth ministry. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year!