You planned a party for 200 people, with games geared for groups of 20. Food quantities have been tallied, and overnight lodging arranged for guests who are coming from far away. And then you find out that only a handful of the invited guests are able to come.
That’s the kind of disappointment—and news—that Kirsten Hamm-Epp and her team of planners (Sarah Unrau, Val White, and Katie Wiebe) have to convey to the 41 youth and sponsors who had already registered for Youth Assembly 2016, as well as well as those who may have still been planning to register: Youth Assembly 2016 is cancelled.
Based on advance polls in the fall of 2015, the team planned for 200 youth. But those numbers did not materialize before June 1, the date when commitments had to be signed for venue rentals, meals, lodging, and certain programming plans.
The team reached out to churches with an urgent plea to state their attendance intentions. Many pastors and youth sponsors indicated they had strongly encouraged attendance. Over the May long weekend, 50 churches responded citing that large numbers of youth had already fundraised intensively to attend the Mennonite World Conference assembly in 2015. Many youth are serving at area church camps this summer or are engaged in other activities.
“These are things we want to affirm,” said Hamm-Epp. “World Conference was a fantastic experience for youth last summer, and serving at camps is a huge part of the overall church experience for a lot of youth.”
Planners exhausted many possible alternatives to make Youth Assembly 2016 work with small numbers in a more intimate setting. But even with dramatic changes to lodging and programming, the event still faced a projected financial loss of approximately $20,000.
Hamm-Epp and her team have reached out to all groups and presenters already registered for Youth Assembly 2016. They will be reimbursed for their registration costs.
As conversations about the cancellation took place, Hamm-Epp said that sadness, confusion, and frustration were displaced with a new idea.
“While the big event has been cancelled, the youth of Saskatchewan are still planning to make their voices heard and will be gathering together over the Assembly dates for a canoe trip! All youth are welcome,” said Hamm-Epp.
Youth who would like to be part of “#thecovenantcrew 2.0” should contact Hamm-Epp at firstname.lastname@example.org. The youth of Saskatchewan will be gathering together over the Assembly dates for a canoe trip. (See more information here.)
Ben Cassels, minister of transformation at Waterloo (Ont.) North Mennonite Church, offered encouragement in an email to the planning team. “I'd like you and everyone else who has been working so hard on the Youth Assembly piece to know that your work and efforts are hugely appreciated! It is hugely frustrating and dispiriting when you invest lots of time and energy into something and it struggles to get going. So thank you to all of you!”
Youth who are not attending Assembly 2016 but wish to speak into the Being a Faithful Church and Future Directions Task Force discussions are strongly encouraged to have conversation with their congregation’s adult delegates so that their voices can still be heard at Assembly. Specially designed youth curricula can be downloaded from CommonWord.