Who is God? That is just one of the many questions asked and answered during this year’s St. Michael’s Youth Conference.
SMYC is an annual week-long conference for teenagers 13-19 that includes study, prayer and fun. That means everything from praying the daily offices, to tackling the big questions about God and life, to scavenger hunts, board games, soccer baseball and swimming.
SMYC has undergone some changes in the past few years, not the least of which was cancellation due to the pandemic. When it picked up again last year, there were six conferees. The longtime director, Canon Kevin Stockall, moved to an advisory position, and the event moved from Camp Wildwood near Buctouche to Camp Medley.
This year, there were nine conferees, most of whom were new, which gives organizers hope moving forward.
The Rev. Nicholas Saulnier has been the director for two years, but his time with the diocese will end next July when he returns to the Canadian Armed Forces to start his career as a military chaplain.
“For the future of St. Michael’s, we’re setting up a board of directors with representatives from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia,” said Nicholas, adding that should take some pressure off whomever becomes the director. “The future is promising.”
He is hoping that better planning, including an earlier announcement of the date next year, will help parents and children plan a summer that includes SMYC.
THE CREESE FAMILY
It was in 1987 that SMYC began in the Maritimes.
“John Paul Westin and some other clergy wanted to do a program in Prince Edward Island at the time,” said Nicholas.
Charles Creese and his two brothers attended SMYC in PEI for several summers.
“I was a Michaelite from 1989-94,” he said. “The conference was just starting out. It filled in a lot of gaps in Christian education. The BCP was a big part of it.”
Both he and his future wife were counsellors at SMYC in Ontario in the 1990s.
Wanting his two children to have the SMYC experience, and seeing what he calls holes in their Christian education, this year he found SMYC online, took a week’s vacation and drove the kids from Rigaud, Quebec, near the Ontario border. He was invited to stay the week and help out whenever needed.
“It’s been a rich feast of the bible, spirituality and theology, and a lot of fun too,” he said, adding that Andrew, 17, and Eleanor, 13, have also been enjoying the week.
On staff this year were Canon Gerry Laskey, Canon Ross Hebb, Sue Careless, and Archbishop David Edwards. Their subjects included knowing your enemy, who is God, creation, the Trinity, spirituality, prayer and the bible.
Shiobhan Laskey was in charge of fun for the week that included a scripture scavenger hunt, a trip into Fredericton to tour the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Christ Church Cathedral and St. Anne’s Chapel of Ease, and lots of sports and games each day.
Several Camp Medley counsellors offered to stay on to help out. They attended the learning sessions, which unofficially boosted the number of conferees, and looked after camping needs.
Nicholas was available to fill in for instructors, and of course, made sure the event ran smoothly.
Sue lives in Ontario but has spent 16 summers at SMYC teaching the fundamentals of spirituality and prayer.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” she said. “It’s always a challenge. I was a high school teacher so I like this age group. They’re attentive and keen in their own way.”
It costs $205 to send a child to SMYC, but organizers do not turn away anyone because of cost.
“We had very generous funding this year from the Segelberg Trust,” said Nicholas, adding it’s named for a classics professor from Dalhousie University who believed in camping ministry.
“It’s helped us bring kids here for free this year,” he said. “They really saw this as a rebuilding year.”
The Diocese also supports SMYC, as do private donors.
1. The Rev. Nicholas Saulnier and Archbishop David Edwards preside over a service of Holy Eucharist.
2. Group shot of St. Michael's Youth Conference, 2023.
3. Charles Creese brought his two teenagers from Ontario to spend the week at SMYC.
4. Sports and games are a large part of the week at SMYC.
Sue Careless & Gisele McKnight photos