More than 800 out-of-town delegates to Joint Assembly and local people are expected to gather for prayers and readings on the main walkway of Parliament Hill on the morning of July 6.
With a manmade waterfall as a striking visual backdrop, the 45-minute event will focus on access to clean water, especially in aboriginal communities. “This will not be a demonstration. It’s a prayerful witness,” says Judy Steers, the Anglican Church of Canada’s Guelph, Ont.-based co-ordinator for youth initiatives.
Anglican-Lutheran youth ages 14 to 25 have played a major role in planning the event and will act as leaders in the small circles that attendees will form at the Saturday prayer service. They even made a preliminary trip to the site earlier this month. “The planning day included a visit up to Parliament Hill to be in the space and get inspired,” says Steers. “We imagined what the walkway up to the steps would look like with a thousand people, all praying together.”
“The planners faced biting winds and snow on their exploratory visit and look forward to it being much warmer for the actual event on July 6,” says Steers. She adds that youth members see the gathering as an important opportunity for people of faith to present a united, positive and public front to the world. Said one young planner: “Usually, what people see on Parliament Hill is protests or demonstrations. This is something different. We are not standing there ‘against’ something, but, rather, we are ‘for’ something by praying together.”
Noel Platte, an Anglican from Ottawa, said, “We want people to walk away from this saying, ‘This was a good thing to do,’ rather than wondering, ‘What was that about anyway?'” Many of the youth expressed similar feelings, says Steers-that it is not worth doing if participants just feel like it’s a big photo op or a PR event. “They all agreed that prayer is at the heart of this, and praying in such a public space is a powerful witness.”
The prayers have been framed to tell the story of water in all aspects of life. Not all the details of the gathering will be released beforehand. “There will be a few pleasant surprises,” says Steers.