The Mystery of St. Michael'sBy Gisele McKnight
It is a God-inspired mystery why a group of busy adults would use precious vacation time every August to spend it with teenagers at St. Michael's Youth Conference.
Priests, professors and others come together to mentor young people ages 13-19 at Camp Wildwood in Bouctouche — without payment — "to work harder than they do at work," said Janice Stockall, who has been doing exactly that as site manager for 24 summers.
She describes it this way: "It's the best week of the year. It's a second family. It's a safe place."
St. Michael's is a six-day camp of intense Anglican and theological mentoring by a host of priests and professionals — on everything from church customs and the Sacraments to prayer and missions. That's three lessons a morning, followed by recreation and entertainment in the afternoons and a mixture of both in the evenings. In between, of course, there are services, prayers and Holy Eucharist.
"On paper it doesn’t look that attractive," said Aidan Ingalls. "But everyone responds so well to it. I don't know if I'd find anything else like it in New Brunswick.
"It's a week where you see everyone come together. It's a community."
At the age of 19, Aidan is already a long-time veteran, this being his 16th year. He was there for eight years as a staff kid and eight as a conferee. He’s the oldest conferee this summer and hopes next year to be on staff.
At the helm of this, the 29th annual conference, is the Rev. Canon Kevin Stockall, who ministers in the Parish of St. Mary (York) in Fredericton. This is his 26th year at St. Michael's.
"This is where they learn the integration of life and faith," said Kevin, of the conferees.
When told he's managed quite a feat to make theological learning so attractive for kids, his response is humble: "God has managed quite a feat!"
Unlike so many who have been coming for decades, this is the first year for the Rev. Chris Hayes, who serves in the Parish of Salisbury and Havelock. It was his son who told him St. Michael's was not to be missed.
"Last year when we were coming home from it, Stephen said, 'Dad, you have to come here next year,'" he said.
"I told myself a few years ago when I was doing Camp Brookwood and choir school, no to two camps in one summer, but here I am!"
He’s teaching a course on Christianity in culture.
This is also the first time for Bishop David Edwards as a staff member.
"I was here for a couple of days last year as an observer," he said. "I liked it so much I wanted to come back. I'm impressed by the kids, by the teaching, by the people running it."
A trained and a natural teacher, the bishop was teaching two courses, one on the church and one on prayer.