Reflecting on the Coldest Night of the Year

We walk for those whose days are a battle to house and feed their families, and whose nights are filled with fear and frustration. We walk for those driven from home by violence and abuse. And we walk for people overwhelmed by isolation, guilt and despair. We walk humbly, realizing that anyone can lose their footing and then lose everything else.
— CNOY Website

Together on February 23, members of YYC Campus Ministry took to the sidewalks of Eau Claire and Kensington as part of the Coldest Night of the Year walk in Calgary. Our team of eight walked side-by-side with 290 other people and 90 volunteers to help raise awareness for the issue of homelessness in Calgary. We left our warm and comfortable homes to walk in the cold to declare our concern for people who have no homes and who need to take shelter in the nooks and crannies of Calgary’s streets. We walked because we wanted to show our support for the organizations who are impacting homelessness and food security in Calgary. We walked because we wanted to be part of a bigger movement.

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As it says on the Coldest Night of the Year website:

“We walk for those whose days are a battle to house and feed their families, and whose nights are filled with fear and frustration. We walk for those driven from home by violence and abuse. And we walk for people overwhelmed by isolation, guilt and despair. We walk humbly, realizing that anyone can lose their footing and then lose everything else.”

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Our small team was one of many on the night to take to the streets in Calgary. There were four locations across our city, and 129 more across Canada walking all at the same time to help raise awareness of this issue and funds for great organizations. Together we raised over $5,000,000 through over 21,000 walkers and 74,000 donors. In the specific walk we participated in there was over $73,000 raised!

This was such an amazing night to meet great people and see so many organizations making a massive impact. But beyond that, this walk had a huge impact on the lives and perspectives of our team members. The night was cold, especially once the sunset. It got down to -24, but with the wind chill, it felt much colder. We were shivering and moving faster towards our end goal. Five kilometres isn’t a long way to walk, but as the temperature drops around you, your face starts to freeze and your hands start to go numb, you start counting the steps until the finish line.

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But we had a finish line. Somewhere that was warm and welcoming, and ready to receive us with food, hot drinks and places to sit.

The people this night was in support of, they don’t have that. They don’t always have a place that is warm or welcoming. They may not be able to eat or get a warm drink. And this thought had an impact on our team. As cold as we were, we realized how lucky we are. We could go inside, eat, talk, and then get into our vehicles and go to our warm houses. We didn’t have to worry about where our next meal was coming from or where we were going to sleep tonight.

That realization made the importance of this walk go beyond the money raised for our team. It made the issue of homelessness become real for many of them. Our conversations that night and the next centred on if housing should be a right. What would a ‘Housing First’ initiative look like in Calgary? What solutions are out there? What does homelessness look like in the rest of the world?

Our students were heavily impacted by the walk and by our visit the next day to the Calgary Mustard Seed. We aren’t sure where these conversations are going to lead our students, what impact they may have in their lives. But for now, we are talking and seeing what we can do as a Ministry to help support many of these issues.

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Little Things to Boost your Mental Health

With Bell Let’s Talk Day occurring recently, this seems like a good time for a conversation about little things you can do in your everyday life to improve your own mental health. Mental health is one of those things that is talked about often today (although still not as often as it should be), but you may be confused about what you can do to improve your own short of going to therapy. And it can be difficult to begin to think about. That’s where this little list comes into play.

None of these tips are intended to deal with large mental health problems, nor are they meant as replacements or alternatives to therapy and proper treatment. These tips are meant as little reminders, boosts, add-ons, or extra pieces that can complement other mental health strategies that you are employing.

Take Care of Your Body

This goes beyond suggestions of ‘exercise more’ (although exercising is an amazing thing to do to help improve your mental health). It’s about taking care of your body as a whole, both with movement and with food. And that can be incredibly difficult as a student. Between time crunches and food budgets, eating right and getting moving can fall off the back-burner and get lost behind the entire stove. That being said, there are some little things that you can do that won’t make a huge dent in your food budget (and may actually save you some money).

  1. Eat often and don’t skip out on meals. Food powers our body, and not eating when your body tells you it needs to is going to lead to being irritable for the day and not thinking as clearly. This opens you up to more negative thinking and negative perceptions of things around you.

  2. Watch the caffeine intake. Students seemingly live off caffeine, drinking multiple cups of coffee and black tea every day. And while it may provide a temporary boost to energy, relying on it and consuming large quantities of it every day can lead to downswings in energy and even contribute to feelings of anxiety. Plus, if you aren’t making it at home, that gets expensive very fast (there’s a reason that Starbucks made $22 billion in sales in 2018).

  3. Just like caffeine, sugar can provide temporary energy boosts, but they last just a short while before you start craving more. Sugar has been shown to be highly addictive and can lead to mood swings and irritability. Watch for feelings of craving sugary food products and if they correlate with low-feeling moods.

  4. Alcohol in small doses can be fine (and in some cases improves) your health. But alcohol dependency or even drinking often can exacerbate feelings of anxiety, sadness, and depression. If you find yourself craving alcohol or drinking daily, it may be time to reach out and talk to someone.

Get Moving!

  1. You don’t have to get moving for very long, just 30 minutes can do all of this:

    1. It helps us cope with stress.

    2. It lowers anxiety.

    3. It lifts our mood.

    4. It boosts our energy.

    5. It helps us feel good about ourselves.

    6. It helps us sleep well.

  2. Getting moving also doesn’t have to be torture! Too often we equate moving with doing something painful. Pick something you enjoy doing that gets you active. And if you don’t know what you enjoy doing, this is your chance to explore all the amazing ways we humans can move!

  3. Here are some other fantastic tips to help you out:

    1. If you pick an activity you enjoy, you are far more likely to keep doing it! Plus, it will help enhance the positive feelings that exercise can give you.

    2. Getting moving with a friend. Not only will you experience the benefits of moving but you will also get to connect with another person. This is very positive for your mental health as well.

    3. The next time you are feeling overwhelmed by tests, anxious, or just down, try getting outside and going for a walk. I know that’s harder in Calgary somedays, but the simple act of walking, the fresh air on your face and the sunshine can alleviate feelings.

Get to Sleep

  1. Sleep has a huge effect on mental health. When we get enough sleep, it is easier to cope with stress, handle problems, concentrate, think positively and remember things. One of the biggest mistakes we see students making is thinking that they can get more done by cutting back on sleep. This is a big mistake, as doing this often will severely affect your ability to process information, deal with situations as they arise, and identify when you are struggling.

  2. Here are some things to try to get better sleep:

    1. Focus on slow, relaxing activities before bed. Things like yoga are great if you want to move a little bit. Reading, sketching, and meditating can all also help your brain to relax and calm down before going to sleep.

    2. Avoid big meals, alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine before bed.

    3. Make sure your room is comfortable for you to sleep in. This varies greatly for many people, so if you aren’t sleeping well try experimenting with different pillows, room temperatures, and even sounds.

    4. Follow a routine. Doing the same things before bed can help signal to your brain and body that it is time to go to sleep. Also, go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time (as much as possible), even on weekends.

Slow Down for a Moment

  1. Student life is busy and that can make it hard to remember to take a second to breathe. But it is incredibly important to slow down every once in a while and maybe even stop for a moment.

  2. Doing this can give you perspective on everything that you are doing and where you are at. It can give you the opportunity to appreciate how far you have come and what you have accomplished. It can also give your brain and body the chance to reenergize and refocus.

  3. Going alongside taking a breath for a moment, is taking some time to be thankful.

  4. Too often, we think about the terrible things around us, dwell on how busy we are and how many bad things have happened but don’t take the time to really stop and look at all that we have to be thankful for. This can be as simple as having a roof over your head or even the opportunity to go to post-secondary (as there are lots of people who never get that chance). This is important because looking at all you have to be thankful for can help improve your mental state and help you to see past negative roadblocks. Often, this will help you refocus on the positives.

Find your Community

Finding a community of people whom you like and trust can be difficult, but immensely rewarding. Humans were built to live in community, but too often much of our work and life are lived in places without much human interaction (digital or otherwise). This is why it can be so important to connect with others, people who understand who you are and people whom you can walk to when need be.

Goals vs Experiences

By Robert Massey, YYCCM Team Member

Let's talk goals vs experiences.

Backpacking off Spray Lakes Road in the Rockies.

Backpacking off Spray Lakes Road in the Rockies.

I'll be honest, goals have never been a driving factor in my life. I've never found them to be encouraging or enlightening or motivating. If I don't finish my goal it doesn't bother me. I understand this is unlike everybody else, but truthfully goals have never driven me. The one enlightening thing they do tell me, however, is the experiences that I want to have and the experiences I want to aim at.

I see goals as the end product of a lot of work. I don't see them as the point of doing a lot of work. Goals don’t drive me because they have no emotional impact. If I set a goal of climbing that mountain and I achieve that goal, to me that means that I have climbed the mountain, stood at the top, looked all around, see the beautiful view, and climbed back down. And when I'm down at the base, then I can stop and say to myself, ‘I've done it I have achieved that goal.’ But what about the experience of having climbed the mountain? Was I so focused on the goal that I forgot to appreciate the experience? Goals are about aiming at the end; experiences are aimed at the feeling of doing something. They are the emotional reason to act.

Think about it this way. You set a goal to make $1,000,000. So you put your head down, you go to work 80 hours a week, you invest well, you save money, and eventually, you have made a million dollars. But how does that million dollars change you? How does accomplishing that goal affect your life? How are you different? While you were making that money have you forgotten to go outside and experience other things that you wanted to do? Were you so focused on achieving that goal - on achieving your million dollars - that you have forgotten what life is really about? What experiences did you sacrifice to get there? And how does your soul feel today?

I had the fantastic experience of sitting in St. Mark’s Square in Venice at midnight shooting awesome photographs.

I had the fantastic experience of sitting in St. Mark’s Square in Venice at midnight shooting awesome photographs.

It's taken me 29 years to figure out the difference between goals and experiences. Goals are based in logic, based on an ending. Experiences are based on emotion, are based on a journey, they are based on how you want to feel.

I don't just want to finish a goal, I want to have the experience along the way. I know to some it sounds like splitting hairs, but to me, they are entirely different mindsets. An entirely different way of going about accomplishing something. I don’t want to look at a goal and not remember the experience of it because I was so focused on the finish.

I want to climb mountains, I want to see K2, I want to scuba dive in what's left of the Great Barrier Reef, I want to hike the Inca Trail, I want to travel across my great and vast country, I want to live in Paris and Rome and London, and I want to see so many of the world's great cities, oceans, forests, mountain ranges, and deserts and people. I want to experience all of this. This is not a checklist of my goals that I want to accomplish. This is not something for me to wave in somebody else's face saying, ‘look at what I've done.’ These are experiences that speak to me. These are things that I want to do for myself, to try and fulfill me and to live a life full of wonder, excitement and adventure.

Shooting on the ocean in Cinque Terre.

Shooting on the ocean in Cinque Terre.

Setting goals is a great place to start, but understanding the emotional context behind that goal is what will truly tell you about yourself. It is also what will help you to achieve those goals. Because it is not finishing that goal that is driving you, it is the expected emotional response behind that goal that is actually driving you.

This is about more than just life is a journey and you have to experience it. Because to me, it goes beyond that. Saying life is a journey is such a generalized idea that there is almost no emotional connection to it. It’s just a thing people say. It is too broad a statement for one person to easily connect to. But understanding what experiences you want to have will provide an emotional connection to your journey through life. This is about the journey. But it is about your journey. It’s about what you want to experience. What you want to experience will drive you through all the difficult and drudgery, through the painful and boring, because you have an emotional connection to something beyond that moment. You understand why you need to run that 5km, it’s so you can see K2 up close.

If I want to climb a mountain, I don't just want to get to the top and back down again. I want to see the trees along the way, I want to feel the wind rush against my face, and I want to smell the freshness of the forest around me. Life is about experiences, not about a collection of goals. It's not about a collection of things you have done and achievements to show to other people. I believe life isn't about showing off to other people. Life is best lived for yourself.

8 Tips to Get Your Schedule Under Control

By Robert Massey, YYCCM Team Member

As the semester swings into full gear, assignments get handed out, and events start pilling on top of one another, it can feel hard to fit it all in. And it may not be possible. But, if you stop and take some time to plan you may just realize you have more time than you thought to finish that assignment, take up a new hobby, or binge your favourite show.  

So here are 8 ideas to help you get your semester under control and have more time to do what you love.

Schedule Everything

If you have a lot going on, setting aside specific time to do a task or complete a project is very important. And not just saying, I’ll get to that this afternoon, but going into your calendar and setting aside a couple of hours at a specific time.

Here’s one way of doing that. Every Sunday, sit down with your calendar (whether that’s a physical calendar on the wall or the one in your phone or both) and look at what you have due soon, what you are doing that week, what meetings you have, and what fun things you want to get up to. And then set aside time for each task during the week.

The psychology behind doing this is pretty evident. One, it helps you recognize what you have going on and what may be sipping through the cracks allowing you to keep on top of tasks and projects. Two, it allows you to stay focused during your set work periods, especially if you know you have something fun coming up after you have finished your study time or project work time. This will make you more productive during those times and less likely to stray off task. Three, it allows you to have fun when you aren’t working or studying. Too often we hear students complain about their lack of time, or how much work they have to do, and how they should stop talking and go study (I’m sure we’ve all done this). But this means that they are thinking about work or their project, allowing that task to take up more time and space in their lives and not focusing on the person in front of them or the enjoyable thing they are doing. It is taking away from their time to enjoy life.

Mute your Notifications

Those little bubbles that come up everywhere - on your phone, on the corner of your computer screen, in tabs on your browser - they are one of the single biggest distractions in life. And they drag your focus away from the task at hand. When you really want to buckle down and focus on something, mute everything! Nearly every notification we receive (unless you're in emergency services) can wait the half hour until you take your break.

It’s a Distraction Based Economy

In the same vein as muting your notifications, getting rid of distractions is important as well. The world we live in today strives to make money off your attention. It is a distraction-based economy. The more time that companies can get you to spend looking at your phone, scrolling feeds, looking at notifications, the better for their bottom line. And those little notifications that come up constantly are their way of subtly reminding you to go and check your feeds, see what your friends are doing, take just a few minutes of your time to do something they want you to do. Where is the harm in taking five minutes to do that? Except normally that five minutes turns into 20 or 30 and changes your mental focus from one of work to one of relaxation and it is hard to get back into ‘go mode’ again. Don’t let companies distract you from what needs to be done.

Close Netflix (or Stop Multitasking)

Multitasking seems like a good idea because you can pretend that you’re working twice as hard. After all, you’re doing two things at once! But, multitasking doesn’t lead to better work, it leads to the same work taking four times longer than if you just worked on one thing at a time. This is especially true if you are attempting to watch a tv show while working on a project. So close the Netflix tabs, your work and marks will thank you for it.

Use one Notebook for Each Class

If you’re like me and learn things better by writing them down (or the class doesn’t jive while with taking computer-driven notes), then this one should help you. Keep a different notebook for each class. This will do a couple of things for your time management. Taking out a specific notebook that ties into a certain class can help signal to your brain that it is time to think about chemistry, art history, the music of AC/DC or whatever class you are sitting in. This will help you to focus on that subject matter and recall information faster, which will make getting things done faster. It will also help keep you far more organized, and when you are looking for that specific note will prevent you from scrolling through hundreds of other classes and pages of information.

Break Down Big Tasks into Smaller Tasks

Sitting and thinking about a 20-page research paper on Handle’s Messiah can be a daunting task (even for those who enjoy Handle’s music). It can seem overwhelming before you even begin, making it more likely you will procrastinate doing it. Instead of thinking about it as one big project, think about it as a list of smaller, easy to accomplish tasks that will lead to accomplishing your bigger goal.

Try Bullet Journaling

People all over the world swear by this method of organization. It may work for you, so check out the idea behind it.

https://bulletjournal.com/

Learn to Say No

Sometimes the simplest thing you can do for your time management is simply to say no every once in a while. This can be hard to do when you have demands coming on you from every side, but it could be the most healthy thing you do for your self. Say no to tasks that you don’t have time for, that you know are going to take up large amounts of time, or are simply things you don’t want to do (and that you don’t have to do, because there are lots of things in work that I don’t want to do but have to do).

So, where you can say no. Be respectful to yourself, your time, and your mental health. Leave yourself some space to breathe.


Dealing with Exam Stress

It’s that time of year again. Finals are here. Big projects are coming due and group projects are causing migraines. But it isn’t the end of the world (even if it feels like it is). The stress can be managed. And it is very important to take care of the stress before it overwhelms you.

There are some ways to handle the stress, and this post will offer you some of the best ways to look after your mental health heading into the end of the fall term.

  1. Schedule things to look forward to
    Seeing a big block of revision in your schedule can overwhelm your brain, making the stress worse and making studying less productive. Give yourself time to do some fun things and something to look forward to. At the end of a long morning of revision, schedule lunch with a friend and just enjoy the time with them. Or at the end of a full day, go out and see a film or climb a mountain. Give yourself a positive outcome to look forward to, not just another night of more studying.

  2. Give yourself a break
    Breaks are incredibly important. Studies have shown that constantly studying and working leads to brain fatigue, ineffective work, and retaining less information. So take a break when your brain starts to feel overwhelmed. Don’t stop and read Facebook or scroll Instagram though. Get out of your chair, get outside and breathe some fresh air. Listen to some music that makes you happy. Go for a walk. Even 20 minutes of this can reboot your brain and make your next hour of studying far more productive than just powering through.

  3. Get some Exercise
    We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Take advantage of it. Get outside and go for a stroll or hike a mountain. Or maybe go for a swim, go rock climbing, go running, play hockey, or hit the gym. Just do something. Besides giving your brain a break, exercise has been shown to boost your mood and your productivity and make it easier to focus. So an hour of exercise can make you more effective at studying. Plus, healthier. And that's always a great thing.

  4. Don’t Compare
    Comparison is the end of creativity and positivity, so don’t compare your study habits and what you’ve learned to others. This is just a tool for stressing you out more. Talking to others, and studying with other people is a great way to revise. But listening to other people talk about their habits, and then comparing yours to theirs isn’t healthy. Do what is best for you to get a positive result and you will succeed. Plus, if you’re comparing yourself to others than you are wasting that time thinking about someone else rather than studying. Kind of counterproductive.

  5. Eat Something Healthy
    Eating healthy at any point can be hard, but during exams, it seems impossible. Unfortunately, sugar crashes are real things and can completely kill a productive afternoon. Eat full meals that will satisfy your body. On that note, check out our Simple Supper on Wednesdays at UCalgary and Thursdays at MRU for a healthy, homemade meal that you don’t have to cook.

  6. Find a Study Buddy
    Studying alone for hours on end can lead to feelings of isolation. Fight that by finding the right person to study with. Even having another person in the room with you who you can occasionally ask a question of has been proven to make studying easier. But find the right person. Someone you can work alongside and isn’t going to distract you from revising.

  7. Plan Out Your Revision
    Leaving studying to the last minute can lead to a massive amount of stress and lack of sleep. Be prepared in advance, know how long you will need to study and make a plan. Work in space for things to go wrong as well, because, well… life. It happens and can screw up the best-laid plans.

  8. Don’t Consume too Much Caffeine
    It’s really easy to keep drinking coffee as you study, but at a certain point, your body is not going to respond well. You can get jittery, lose focus, and become more anxious the more caffeine you consume. Keep the coffee, and black tea, consumption down to maximize the benefit of a couple of cups. This much coffee can also drastically alter your sleeping.

  9. Avoid All-Night Binges the Day Before an Exam
    This is self-explanatory for many. Going into an exam on no sleep doesn’t make your brain work better or faster. It just makes you feel groggy and foggy. Don’t get pulled down into this trap. Get some rest, which actually leads to number 10.

  10. SLEEP!
    This is one of the most important things that many students (and adults in general) do not do. Give yourself time to rest and heal and your brain the chance to make the biggest impact by giving it a good nights rest. This isn’t always possible, but do your best to get a decent amount of sleep each night and you will be feeling rested and ready for every challenge that comes the next day.

Some quick things to do to reduce stress:

  • Meditate or reflect on things that are important to you. Give time for gratitude and thanks that you are in a position to be studying for post-secondary exams.

  • A shower or a bath can help to relieve stress.

  • Cook or bake something that gives you joy. Remake a childhood favourite, your favourite dessert, or make a special dinner for you and your friends or loved ones.

  • Avoid other stressed people. You know the ones we mean. Those that are running around with cue cards falling out of their pockets, asking everyone if they know this date or that person, and trying to remember every detail at the last moment. They will do nothing positive for you.

  • Be flexible and gentle with yourself. Having a timetable for revision is important, but if you don’t stick to it don’t beat yourself up over it. Get back on track quickly and regain your focus.

  • Keep things in perspective. Yes, exams are important. But you are so much more than your exam results.

Digging into Dirty Theology: Mythbusting Sin

By Zoe Say, YYCCM Team Member

Laughter erupted from me as I strained not to spew my mouthful of cappuccino all over the beautiful wooden table in front of me. I quickly swallowed and then let loose, along with the entire group around the table. Our laughter rang throughout Knox United Church’s gorgeous sanctuary; bouncing off of pews, rising to the stained glass windows and echoing around the vaulted ceiling. As we quieted down, our fearless facilitator Rev. Nick Coates dove into the question raised and the cause of our laughter, “If original sin is thought to pass from generation to generation through the seed, or sperm, of Adam, would masturbation, therefore, be a good thing, as it “spills the seed” which spreads the sin?” The topic of our conversation shifted from original sin to masturbation, and whether it was good or bad or somewhere in the middle. Rev. Nick helped us look at the story of Onan “spilling his seed” in the bible, and a new take on what God might have been really mad about (here’s a hint, it’s not the act of masturbation).

This is exactly the kind of conversation and ethos I hoped to create with a slight shift for year two of Dirty Theology, a partnership program of St. Andrew’s Regional Ministry and ourselves, now being hosted in Sanctuary Coffee at Knox. For this second year, we decided to spend time digging deep into one of the grittiest topics of the Christian Faith - Sin. Specifically, busting through some of the myths, guilt, and shame that often surround the word sin, and reclaiming how it might be helpful in today’s society.

If original sin is thought to pass from generation to generation through the seed, or sperm, of Adam, would masturbation, therefore, be a good thing, as it “spills the seed” which spreads the sin?
— The question of the night
Our fantastic facilitator Rev. Nick Coates.

Our fantastic facilitator Rev. Nick Coates.

Last year we loved delving into some of the Bible's most risque stories but found ourselves yearning for a bit more time to delve into how the Bible story or topic affected our daily lives. Instead, we spent a lot of time unpacking the bible story, and only a little chatting about how that story was also our story, as Rev. Nick Coates likes to stay. The bible is rich with stories about the messy lives of humans, muddling their way through life, falling down, trying again, and God meeting them there. The hope this year is to start from an overarching theme of Mythbusting Sin, flush it out to individual focus topics each month, and then bring in the Bible as it relates to what we're talking about. We already have many topics that emerged from last Sunday's discussion that I can't wait to dig into throughout the year. We will have a focus topic for each month under the broader theme of Mythbusting Sin such as racism or sex. These can be one-offs, so there is no pressure for young adults to show up every month, but will also have a flow and build upon one another.

As Program Director for the YYC Campus Ministry, I spend a lot of time hanging out with young adults and chatting about faith. One of greatest barriers young people have toward religion is a fear and expectation of judgement. They hear a lot in the media around sin, shame and guilt in relation to Christianity. Rev. Greg Glatz, the brains behind Knox United Church’s Sanctuary Coffee, jokingly put on one of their signs for the cafe “no you won’t burst into flames if you walk into the church”. This, sadly, is not far off from what many expect. It is exciting to attempt to dig into and reclaim sin not as a tool for judgement, but rather a way to address the barriers that come between us and the love that Jesus both preached and lived.

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A Night in Zambia

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By Robert Massey, YYCCM Team Member

A little over a year ago, my partner left on, at the time, a 9-month journey to Zambia to work with the SANI project. This had been a life-long goal of hers. She had wanted to return to the African country since her first visit there in 2008 on a trip with other Calgary-based youth in the United Church. This was her chance to go back and try to make an impact on a country that so deeply impacted her. What that meant for us was another long stint living in other places (this had become the norm in our relationship). But what this also meant was the chance for me to go and visit Zambia as well! And, of course, visiting Zambia meant taking a ton of photographs.

The trip was both eye opening, interesting, and amazing. It started with the longest travel days I've ever had and involved a 60 C temperature change (literally, it was -30C when I left Calgary & +30C when I landed in Lusaka). My partner and I did all the touristy things including visiting Victoria Falls in Livingston, kayaking down the Zambezi, and doing a three-day safari in South Luangwa National Park (where we also got to visit a local congregation). It involved nearly 48 hours riding buses (and two totally awesome plane rides) and seeing the brand new and highly undeveloped region my partner was working in.

But I didn't just want to see the pretty parts of this country. Be a drop-in tourist that just takes in the sites and leaves. I also wanted to do something while I was there, I wanted to volunteer or at least make some sort of an impact. So my partner arranged for us to do field visits with her team, where I'd take photographs and video that could be used in various media by the variety of organizations in charge of the project. These field visits, unfortunately, didn't end up arising for a variety of reasons. What this meant was I came home looking for another way to give something back. That is how this fundraiser came to be.

A Night in Zambia is an opportunity for you to learn more about this country, hear the stories from those who have been there, and admire and purchase some (in my totally biased opinion) awesome photographs all while supporting a Zambian Homecare Project and YYC Campus Ministry.

Before we launch into all the details about the night, let's take a step back. Back to 2008. My partner was part of the United Church's Youth Exposure trip to Zambia. She went for three weeks into the country's copper belt, learned all about the difficulties facing the countries people, and had an amazing and eye-opening experience. This trip is what led her to go back there and work once again. Fast forward nearly a decade to 2017, and another group of Calgary UCC youth headed off to Zambia. I couldn't do justice to what this group learned and saw so take a look here at a blog post written by our summer student Eden Middleton all about her experience. It's an amazing read, make sure you come back here though!

The leader of both of these expeditions was Rev. Vicki McPhee of Symons Valley United. She has a special place in her heart for Zambia and the amazing people there. She holds the country and the people in her heart, and when I approached her wanting to run a fundraiser for a Zambian project she was all over it.

And on November 17th at 7 p.m. at Scarboro United Church our fundraiser will be taking place!

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What makes this truly special for me is the night will be a gala-style sale of my artwork from Zambia. This is the first time I have hosted a whole gallery-sale to myself and I must admit that it both excites and scares me greatly. I love that I have the opportunity to show work that I have created, but beyond that, I love that I can use that work to make an impact. Every piece of art I bring to the gala will be for sale. From the large-scale prints on the walls to the art-cards, everything will be available and all the proceeds are going to be split evenly between the Zambian Project and the Campus Ministry.

The night goes well beyond the artwork, you will also get to hear from some of the youth and young adults who were on the Zambian trips. They will tell you their stories about being there, what they experienced and about the impact it has had on them. These are some amazing people, with spectacular stories. It is well worth the cost of admission just to hear them speak. Finally, if amazing speakers and beautiful artwork weren't enough, there will be drinks, appies, door prizes, and live classical music from three very talented University of Calgary students. So come on out and experience Zambia in photographs and in stories. It will be a one-night special that can have a lasting impact.

WHEN: November 17th, 2018

TIME: 7 p.m.

LOCATION: Scarboro United Church

TICKETS: https://nightinzambia.brownpapertickets.com/

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Welcome Back!

Welcome back to a new semester! We are so stoked for a new semester of drumming, of suppers, of services, conversations, dancing, talking, thinking, debating, and listening.

Last week we kicked off all of our programming, and they went off with a bang!

On Sunday, we had our Contemplative Worship Service where 10 of us gathered to welcome in the new school year. Then on Wednesday, we kicked off three of our programs at the University of Calgary. Fourteen amazing women gathered together for the bi-weekly Women’s Circle before 22 of us gathered for our Welcome Back Drum Circle. This was one of the most musical and magical starts to the year we have ever had. So many new drummers with amazing skills who just started vibing together right off the hop. That night we hosted another 20 people at the brand new Faith & Spirituality Centre where we all enjoyed a Glowing Red Lentil soup handcrafted by the amazing Margaret.

Thursday saw us kick things off in a brand new location at MRU, the Yellow Room (Z203) on the second floor of Wyckham House. Fifteen of us drummed out some pretty awesome beats, then 8 of us stayed for soup and a great conversation.

But the start of the year isn’t just about programs. It’s also about what the start of the semester means. This is a time of transitions for so many young adults, regardless of if they are students or not. September is a time of change and a time of things ending and things beginning. For us at the Campus Ministry, this is a really important thing that we constantly keep in mind when interacting and working alongside the students.

For students there a lot of new things to experience, new classes, new classmates, new living situations, and lots of new lessons in and out of class. We are proud to be one of the places that students can come and learn new things, meet new people, and have new experiences. But we are also proud of being one of the places that students can come to when they are feeling overwhelmed. When they need someone to listen to them. When they need to just sit in silence, with someone ready to help bear their problems with them.

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This is what the Campus Ministry is really about at its core. It isn’t just about providing free food and a musical experience. Don't’ get us wrong, those are amazing and fun opportunities, but what we are at the core is a place where students can come and know that they have people who are ready to care for them. Ready to listen to them. Ready to help them how we can. We are about providing a space for students to be themselves, without the outside pressures of university, of being graded, or of being worried about being judged. Our programming is designed to give students a space to speak freely, express themselves without worry, to make mistakes and to find joy.

School is incredibly important ( we wouldn’t be working on campus if we didn’t believe that) but having a space to be free, full of people ready to listen and talk about whatever is weighing on one’s mind is important too. This is why we do what we do, to give students this space.

The programming side of these spaces returns on Wednesday at the University of Calgary at 4:30 in the Vitruvian Space for drumming and 6:00 pm. in the FSC (MB122) for the Simple Supper. Then on Thursday, our programming returns at 4:30 for drumming and 6:00 p.m. for the Simple Supper in z203 on the second floor of Wyckham House.

Our off-campus programming returns on the second Sunday of October with the Contemplative Worship Service at 6:00 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church and then Dirty Theology returns on October 21 at Knox United Church.

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Celebrating Pride

Drums. Dancing. Screaming. Cheering. Chanting. 

This is how we celebrated our first ever Pride Parade as an organization. With handmade signs, handprints of love, and the energy to drum and dance continuously for over 3 km. 

And it was a BLAST! The energy, the excitement, the vigour, the feeling. It was amazing to walk between the nearly 80,000 people who came down to celebrate and invigorate the Pride Parade. But the biggest thing from this afternoon was the love. You could feel it. There was a palpable wall of love that you passed through as the people in the crowd swelled and cheered when you entered the parade route. It washed over you. Enveloped you. You couldn't help but smile. This feeling nearly brought some of our members to tears, it was that powerful. It felt less like getting hit with a wave and more like being wrapped in a warm, inviting blanket.

It was pure, unbridled happiness and love pouring out from tens of thousands of strangers. We didn't know them. They didn't know us. But they cheered and we cheered right back. We drummed and they clapped in time. We danced and they got their feet moving. We loved each other as a community, and that is all you can ask for.  

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We had a strong contingent of people, nearly 20 of us walking behind a homemade banner held up by a curtain rod taken from an employee's house. The young adults alongside us let their Pride flow strong. They cheered and got the crowd moving. They drummed and they sang. And they held signs high, proclaiming the true message of the Bible and of Jesus. Love.

Just simply love.

This was important. Especially when protesters appear, proclaiming god isn't proud, that we were all sinners, that everyone should repent. It was even more important when these signs appeared. But there were few of them, tucked in one corner of the route. And it was powerful for us to counter their protest with our signs of love, of grace, of joy and happiness. 

To counter their protest with our very presence. 

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We were part of a large and long contingent of churches and religious organizations there to stand with the LGBTQ+ and two-spirit communities. We were over 500 strong marching in the parade alone, let alone all the believers in churches and on the sides of the parade this morning. They were a tiny number, hiding behind large signs. We were loud, large and proud of supporting these communities. We let our presence be known. We let our message of love fly in the face of their hatred, and the 80,000 people around us cheered with us. They roared when Tim ran in front of their signs, dressed full on in his robes, rainbow stole and collar; grinning as he happily supported the Pride Parade. 
It is those visible signs of hatred that make the Pride Parade, Pride week celebrations, the work of Affirm United, and GSA's so important. People often ask why we need the Pride Parade and the celebrations. Those signs tell us why.

They also tell us why it is so important that the Campus Ministry is pursuing it's affirming designation. We started that process earlier this summer, putting our work where our words have been for so many years. Today was something special for us all. We walked together. Visibly, happily, and in unity as an organization with a squadron of young adults walking, dancing, and drumming along with us. We took an important step as an organization today, openly acting upon what we have been saying for years.

Now it's time for us to keep the excitement going. Pride is more than just one week, it's every day of every year. It's about showing support and inclusion at every event and every corner of our work.

It's about showing love for everyone.

Our team with Mayor Nenshi at the end of the parade route. 

Our team with Mayor Nenshi at the end of the parade route. 

The Ties That Bind

Our guest author at the sign making event!

Our guest author at the sign making event!

By Izunna Nwogbo, Guest Author

There’s been no shortage of new and fun experiences I’ve had since joining the YYC Campus Ministry back in early 2018, and our latest venture only further cements that there will be more to come. With the Calgary Pride Parade just around the corner, members have been hard at work preparing posters, signs, and banners to flourish and show their support on the big day. Come August 26th, I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in the aptly named Tie Dye Team Build Extravaganza – where all those with a passion for crafting creative and colourfast shirts in the name of a good cause were welcome.

It was my first time ever doing something like this, and I found that when it came to tying and dying, there were patterns galore to choose from. Some opted for stylish spiral designs with different bands of colour, while others sprang for the always appreciated rainbow stripes. There was even a unique case of crinkling used to get a desired and worthwhile effect. Regardless of what was picked, however, it was indisputable that everyone had released the experimental artist within them that evening.

The event’s spread was nothing to overlook either, as Diane and Reverend Tim saw to it that no one left the yard hungry. With delicious homemade mint lemonade provided by our esteemed host and Tim and Diane’s serving of fruit salad coupled with exotic bean salad and yams, we soon had a sure banquet on our hands.

It was no secret that summer was fleeting, and with the last few moments of it shuffling out the door, we found ourselves fighting against wind and rain to keep our tarp from collapsing and our banner dry. But in a way, that proved to be fun for me too, because even when we were trying to keep everything together and from falling into chaos – I felt like it was also bringing us all closer together as a result. Summer coming to an end couldn’t take that away even if it wanted to.

Photo by Izunna Nwogbo

Photo by Izunna Nwogbo

Our tie-dyed shirts were specially wrapped and secured in plastic bags to dry safely until they were ready for the next step. To keep the shirts from losing their beautiful colours, white vinegar would have to be applied after soaking them in cool water. Once all of that was done, they’d be in tiptop shape for Pride 2018.

As we were closing up shop, I decided to get some final comments from fellow partakers. One said he was happy he had shown up because he felt it was a great opportunity to let people know that they weren’t alone in the world, even if it may feel that way at times.

Photos by Izunna Nwogbo