Grounded and shaken

Youth from across Canada gather to learn the radical ways of Jesus

August 14, 2019 | News | Volume 23 Issue 15
Donna Schulz | Saskatchewan Correspondent
Shake participants gather for a photo on the Shekinah Retreat Centre deck. (Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg)

“We want to be shaken not by what the world throws at us, but by what Jesus throws at us.”

With these words, Kirsten Hamm-Epp welcomed participants to Shake: Rattled by the Radical.

Hamm-Epp, regional church minister for Mennonite Church Saskatchewan, partnered with Kathy Giesbrecht, associate director of leadership ministries for MC Manitoba, to plan the nationwide youth event, which took place from July 28 to Aug. 1 at the Shekinah Retreat Centre, north of Waldheim, Sask.

Eighty-seven youth, aged 12 to 18, attended Shake, accompanied by 22 sponsors and an additional 10 resource people and volunteers. They came from Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Over the four-day event they ate, worshipped, learned and played together.

Each day began with a worship time called “Getting grounded.” Moses Falco, pastor of Sterling Mennonite Fellowship in Winnipeg, used texts from Jeremiah to ground the youth in what Scripture had to say about each day’s theme.

“The evenings were designed to shake us up a little more,” said Hamm-Epp. “They allowed us to dig into a topic in a way that would shake and rattle us a little bit.”

The July 29 theme was “Creation, creator, creating.” Teacher Lindsay Braul shared her passion for creation care. As a student at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Braul lived in a community where making good choices for the environment was the norm. When she transitioned back home to Regina, she felt frustrated when she tried to introduce recycling in a community that didn’t really seem to care. Braul challenged the youth to think of one thing they could do differently in order to care for the Earth.

“Reimagination, reconciliation, relationships” was the theme for July 30. Hamm-Epp said this day was about “looking at our relationships with our Indigenous neighbours through the lens of God’s love for us and for creation.” Lyndon Linklater, an Indigenous educator who sees himself as a “teacher of respect and reconciliation,” invited the youth to think about what reconciliation might look like from either Indigenous or settler perspectives. He taught participants some Cree words, helping them to understand that sharing language is an important part of working towards reconciliation.

The teaching came alive with a trip to nearby Stoney Knoll, former home of the Young Chippewayan First Nation and site of the 2006 gathering of reconciliation between the Young Chippewayan people and Lutheran and Mennonite farmers who now occupy the land. 

Hoop dancer Lawrence Roy Junior offered a glimpse into Indigenous culture, while Harry Lafond, of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, taught the meaning of “treaty.” Gary LaPlante, representing the Young Chippewayan people, and Wilmer and Barb Froese, representing Mennonite farmers, shared their experiences of reconciliation.

“I was profoundly touched by how this group of youth were engaged with what was happening,” said Hamm-Epp. “They were there to build relationships.”

The youth planted a tree of reconciliation at Stoney Knoll.

“Representatives from each youth group helped to either pour water or shovel dirt,” said Hamm-Epp. “Thirty years from now they can go back and see this tree [and know that] we are now part of this land in a unique way,” she said.

“Hol(e)y, healthy, hopeful” was the Aug. 1 theme. The intentional spelling of the first word, with the “e” in parentheses, suggested that people are both full of holes (imperfect) and called by God to be holy. To explore this theme, Hamm-Epp invited a panel of six youth and sponsors to answer questions such as:

  • What do you do to stay healthy?
  • Is it easy to think of yourself as a child of God? 
  • What makes you hopeful?

Following the panel discussion, Giesbrecht affirmed God’s deep love for each participant through a service of anointing. “God wants to be your friend,” she said. “If there’s a place in the church for me, there’s a place in the church for you.” Volunteers anointed youth with oil, saying, “The God who gave you life calls you beloved.”

In addition to learning and worship, each day at Shake included outdoor activities: the Flying Fox zip line, the Shekinah climbing wall and various team initiatives. Participants also enjoyed free time to just hang out and make new friends.

Comedian Matt Falk entertained participants on their final evening together. Hamm-Epp described his performance as “fantastic,” saying, “He affirmed [the youth by telling them], ‘There’s no junior Holy Spirit; you have the fullness of the Holy Spirit now. You don’t have to turn 18 [to be] called, beloved, holy and accepted.’ ”

Hamm-Epp said she felt “beyond encouraged by this group [of youth] and their thoughts, energy, wisdom, [and] love for God.” 

View Daryl Neustaeder Barg’s video summary of Shake here.

Shake participants gather for a photo on the Shekinah Retreat Centre deck. (Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg)

The afternoon at Stoney Knoll, Sask., included a hoop dance presentation and instruction by Lawrence Roy Junior of Saskatoon. (Photo by June Miller)

Before departing Stoney Knoll, youth representatives from across Canada helped plant a tree as a sign of reconciliation between Mennonites and the Young Chippewayan First Nation. (Photo by June Miller)

Kirsten Hamm-Epp, left and Kathy Giesbrecht led in prayer for each regional church just before the end of Shake. (Photo by June Miller)

Kirsten Hamm-Epp, far right, looks on as Andrea de Avila, holding the microphone, responds to a question during a panel discussion in response to the theme ‘Hol(e)y, healthy, hopeful.’ Also pictured, from left to right, are: Miriam Huebner, Phil Campbell Enns, Nathan Bartel, Zachary Stefaniuk and Madison Harms. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Youth sponsor Chad Miller, right, anoints Caleb Gartner with oil and the words, ‘The God who gave you life calls you beloved.’ Both are from Foothills Mennonite Church in Calgary. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Comedian Matt Falk provided some ‘hol(e)y’ laughter for Shake participants. (Photo by June Miller)

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