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Wednesday
Oct072015

The Mystery of St. Michael's 

Third-year Michaelites at the Maritime St Michael’s Youth Conference.

(Photo: Elizabeth Stockall)
By Gisele McKnight

WHY WOULD a group of busy adults spend precious August vacation time with teenagers at St. Michael’s Youth Conference? It’s a God-inspired mystery.

Priests, professors and others come together to mentor young people ages 13-19 at Camp Wildwood in Bouctouche – without payment – and  “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, 29 years running, 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 Communion.

“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 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!”

The camp operates like any other summer camp in many ways. The day begins at 7 a.m. followed by Morning Prayer at 7:30 and breakfast at 8:05.

Every morning the cabins are inspected by a group of seven determined young staff children and grandchildren, under the director of Linda Hebb, and the results are announced at lunch. Earning the bragging rights to having the neatest, cleanest cabin is still a motivator.

A big bell is rung to summon everyone for lunch, and grace is sung. 

And outdoor games still involve a lot of people getting drenched with water.

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,’” Hayes says.

“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 natural teacher, the bishop was leading two courses, one on the church and one on prayer.

Also new to St. Michael’s are special guests from Kyogyera, Uganda. The Rev. Canon Caleb Twinamatsiko is assistant rector and headmaster at Uganda’s Bishop McAllister College and Bishop McAllister Anglican Seminary. His wife, Hope, is a counsellor at the school and a counsellor and lecturer at a nearby university.

This trip was their first in an airplane. They had no idea what to expect, but thought they might see snow here in New Brunswick. At the least, they expected dry, brown grass, not the lush greenery of summer.

“We love the way people are so welcoming to us,” said Hope. “We find that very comforting.”

Caleb is teaching a class on missions in Uganda. He said he’s already picked up some good ideas to take back to his school.

But the teachers and special guests rely on camp counsellors to give the week structure and to make it fun. Counsellor Ellery Furlong of Fredericton is in his 10th year at St. Michael’s. Busy organizing games for the afternoon, he said the week is always a lot of fun, but he’s using his vacation as many other leaders are – as an investment in kids, though he’s barely into adulthood himself.

“I really think we’re doing a lot of good for Christian youth,” he said. “It’s good to play games, but it’s good to teach them too.”   TAP 

–Diocese of Fredericton eNews. Reprinted with Permission.

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