By Rev. Rachel Nadon
The First-Third Ministry Staff and Ilinca Poon, Symons Valley United; Nik Sloat, McDougall United; and Rev. Rachel Nadon, Knox United, Drumheller, organized an amazing YouthTrek experience again this year. This year 33 participants, including youth and youth leaders, traveled across Southern Alberta to Drumheller for a weekend Youth Retreat, September 29-October 1, 2023. During this three-day retreat, we delved deeper into Reconciliation and what it means to live into apology throughout our time together. This was a weekend of theological reflection, learning, and building relationships for everyone in attendance.
We began the weekend exploring the Royal Tyrell Museum, learning about fossils, dinosaurs, evolution, and the multitude of creatures who roamed this part of the world before the humans who hunted Woolly Mammoth called this place home. Next, we went bowling, so we could learn each other’s names and get to know one another. Then we headed to Knox United Church in Drumheller to settle into the place where we would be spending most of our time over the weekend.
After breakfast on Saturday, we were joined by our Métis Cree Elder, who was there to help guide us for the weekend. We shared in morning worship, and theological reflection for the theme, then we walked downtown to attend and participate in the local TRC event happening in town.
The TRC event was organized with a balance of speakers, drumming and dancers. As each dancer came onto the stage the regalia, style of dance, and meaning of the dance were explained prior to each performance. The speakers came from a variety of backgrounds and shared different perspectives on how the TRC has impacted our lives. We had the opportunity to hear an Elder who is a survivor share a prayer in Blackfoot. Another speaker shared the generational impact of having survivors raise them. A local federal politician came to say a few words. An Indigenous Author came and read one of her children’s books about reclaiming language. A local teacher and her students shared a poem. Rev. Rachel Nadon went up with some of the YouthTrek participants to share a few words explaining the role our denomination had in managing 15 of the institutions under the Residential School System and read The United Church of Canada’s 1986 and 1998 Apologies to Indigenous people. The gathering ended with a round dance and we shared in a feast together.
One of the elders shared she never thought she would see the day when people representing the government, schools, church, non-indigenous and indigenous would share in a round dance together. To witness this made her heart sing.
When we returned to the church we took some time for reflection, the youth took time to prepare Sunday Morning Worship and had time for more community building and games. The link to the Sunday service can be found on the Knox, Drumheller YouTube Page, under the live tab.