AFC celebrates youth

​A personal reflection by the Very Rev. Peter Wall

It was, undoubtedly, the highlight of my year. The entry into this world of my first grandchild: Simone Adelaide Schwartz on April 13 at 10:00 a.m.

Her arrival has changed everything. In her presence, the most mundane objects become new and exciting when enthusiastically narrated, as Grandpas tend to do: this book, that lamp, my chair. In her bright little eyes, the past has no meaning because the present is all-consuming. And when the briefest of naps affords those of us who dote on her the luxury of time, we invariably look to the future, speculating about milestones: the rolling over, the sitting up, the walking, the talking.

The Very Rev. Peter Wall with granddaughter Simone, born April, 2021.

The second great highlight of my year was, not uncoincidentally, the birth of another change-oriented, youthful, exciting, forward-looking endeavour. We did not mark the date or the hour, but the Anglican Foundation of Canada’s Say Yes! to Kids campaign, in which I have had a hand, came to life last January. As you might have learned last week, the AFC Board approved an astonishing $468,000 in funding for 79 projects through the Say Yes! to Kids Request for Proposals (RFP). This is the largest one-time investment in youth-focused ministry the Canadian church has seen.

Together with my colleagues at AFC, I spent last week traveling across Canada by ZOOM, visiting different dioceses to celebrate these grant awards. I listened to grant recipients talk about an astonishing variety of projects with widespread social impacts. It occurred to me that the pandemic has changed the church and strengthened our resolve to be missional.

Indeed, it feels as if we are at the forefront of a movement: more ready than we have ever been as a church to say without words, but with deeds, that young people matter to the Canadian church, young people have a place here, and can find a spiritual home in which they have room to live and breathe and contribute here.

The Rt. Rev. Sandra Fyfe, Bishop of Nova Scotia & PEI—who joined our grant celebrations last week—may have captured the essence of this movement the best, when she shared an Indigenous-centred view of the ten grants awarded in her diocese as investments in the “Dream Catcher” generation. “This is the generation that will help us move forward in hopeful and positive ways,” she said, “and really help us to create a better world, a better society, and a better church.”

Behind every grant is a generous gift and I am grateful, beyond measure, to the visionary donors who supported Say Yes! to Kids. I am also grateful to those who have nurtured youth ministry leaders to step forward, bravely, onto a mission field that now includes youth-focused pandemic recovery. Between the granting and the giving there has been no shortage of generosity, passion, or creativity among Canadian Anglicans. Well done!

When my granddaughter is older, I hope to travel with her to parts of the country I know and love. Our journey might include attending the performance of a children’s choir in Alberta, joining a recording session of a youth podcast in Manitoba, or paying a visit to a reconciliation garden in Nova Scotia—all Say Yes! to Kids grant recipients.

Of course, I will be happy to tell her that she and all these things were born in the same year. Together we will celebrate a visionary, loving church—one that saw beyond that which was merely possible to that which might be dramatically transformational. What a great day that will be!

The Very Rev. Peter Wall is a Gift Consultant for the Anglican Foundation of Canada. He can be reached at [email protected]