Reimagined event draws the circle wider.

Primary Media
Dr. James Makokis at Rendez-vous
Dr. James Makokis is a proud Cree from the Saddle Lake First Nation in northern Alberta and a physician. He was a keynote speaker at Rendez-vous 2020.
Credit: Speakers Bureau of Canada

Rendez-vous 2020, the United Church's national youth and young adult gathering, was an event like no other―just as 2020 has been a year like no other.

In late April, the Rendez-vous design team decided there couldn't be a large gathering in Calgary because of COVID-19. Plans that had been in the works for over a year were scrapped, disappointment reigned, and there was wavering about whether to postpone to 2021, cancel completely, or reimagine. After anxious conversations, disagreements, and a few tears, the decision was made to reimagine Rendez-vous 2020 as an online event.

The team wanted young people to know that the church understood all they were missing, cared for them even if we couldn't be with them in person, and wanted to bless them.

Rendez-vous 2020 Reimagined, held August 11‒14, was much like a face-to-face event. There were engaging keynote speakers, lively worship sessions, home groups, a service project, as well as workshops and spiritual practice sessions too numerous to list. Each morning started with Teachings by Elders, and each evening ended with a fun social time. Photos were shared, chats occurred, and exhibits viewed. Some people participated from home, others took part while camping, and some joined in from their church parking lots.

More than 480 young people attended the various activities over the course of the event. There were participants from every province in Canada as well as denominations, including Anglican, Lutheran, and United Church of Christ. The virtual nature of the event drew the circle wider than ever: Global partners from around the world, including the Philippines, Palestine, France, and Kenya joined in.

Together, the participants shared bold faith, created brave space, and offered one another brazen grace―all from a safe distance. Several young people thanked the church for finding a creative way to host Rendez-vous. "Thank you so much for continuing with Rendez-vous," one participant wrote, "I find it difficult to be in social settings at the best of times so this was wonderful for me. I did miss creating those physical connections but I am glad we were still able to gather, from a safe distance."

Following a moving keynote speech by Dr. James Makokis, a leader and well-known expert within the Indigenous, LGBTQ2 and medical community, one young person wrote, "Being a young person going through college, it makes me feel so much better when I hear someone who has failed but was able to get back on their feet. It's so inspiring."

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