Rendezvous has begun! The event at Montreal’s Concordia University commenced amidst the singing, dancing and laughter of hundreds of young people and leaders from across Canada. At St. George Williams University Alumni Auditorium, seats were filled with participants excitedly chatting with their friends. ReGenesis, a band of mostly of youth from Nova Scotia's Bedford United Church, also struck up a tune, providing a musical backdrop to this jubilance. Their repertoire includes an original song written for Rendezvous entitled "Be the Church” — a phrase that was adopted as the theme of our event.
At our initial gathering, we were honoured to be joined by an elder from the Mohawk Nation, upon whose traditional territory the city of Montreal was built. He shared his wit, his wisdom and his stories, as well as reminded us to whom we must be grateful for the soil on which we gathered. During this first gathering, we also met — and thanked — Shanna and Adam, our ambassadors from the Rendezvous Design Team, who planned this amazing event.
Following our communal assembly at the auditorium, we returned to our home for the next few days, the Grey Nuns Residence (it’s allegedly haunted!), to meet and befriend our homegroups. These are the small teams with whom we'll be chatting with and debriefing over dinner each night. In a Kafkaesque twist, though, the kitchens ran out of food before everyone could eat! But like the story of the loaves and the fishes, what was needed was provided, and those with empty plates were treated to a meal at a nearby restaurant.
Following dinner, we returned to the Sir George Williams Auditorium to hear from the day's keynote speaker and to share in evening worship. Today’s keynote speaker was none other than the moderator herself, the Right Reverend Jordan Cantwell. If you have ever met Rev. Cantwell, you can imagine how amazing this presentation was. She shared her wisdom with us in a way that was funny, thought-provoking and deeply moving. Rev. Cantwell's keynote address sought to elaborate on what it means to “be the church"; often, we picture a church as a building or a place, but as Rev. Cantwell pointed out, “church" is a collective noun — a group of people dedicated to worshipping together. To be a church doesn’t require Sunday worship. Instead, we "do" church when we dedicate our time and our love to helping those around us, especially those who have been forgotten and cast aside by society. Jesus, Rev. Cantwell reminded us, didn’t do things the traditional way, least of all worship. Jesus' church was something entirely new — something that healed both the physically and spiritually blind, opening their eyes to a newer way.
Jesus called his followers to this new way of living and loving — a way that embraces Creation unconditionally while rejecting institutions that do evil. This way doesn’t divide good and bad people; it sees all flawed people as individuals who can strive to improve themselves and their world, and who are unconditionally and boundlessly loved by God every step of the way. These people are the church more than any building can be. That’s because whenever we worship and work together, we are being the church and bringing Christ’s ministry to life with each loving, healing beat of our hearts.
After Rev. Cantwell's speech, we shared in a lovely worship service, which included a sermon by Rev. Simon LeSieur. The highlight was when Rev. LeSieur delivered a funeral benediction before the end of worship. In one hand, he held his infant daughter, and as he extended his other hand in blessing, his little girl did the same. So we were, it seemed, pretty blessed.
After that, it was back to the Grey Nuns for a debriefing with homegroups, followed by bed. Yes, there is lots to do tomorrow, so we need our rest!
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