CANADA: Global Christian student assembly launches in Montreal

August 1, 2008

From August 1-9, 180 students from more than 100 countries will convene in Montreal, Quebec, for the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) general assembly. The event, held every four years, gathers young leaders from many traditions: Anglican, Protestant, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, and other faiths, all affiliated with Student Christian Movement (SCM) branches around the world. "This is a vision assembly," points out David Ball, national coordinator for SCM Canada. "In addition to the usual business, we want to decide where the assembly will go in the future." Accordingly, the theme of this 34th general assembly is based on Joel 2:28: "Your sons and daughters shall prophesy." The delegates (from Bangladesh, Norway, Lesotho and beyond) have already met in women's and men's pre-assemblies, and will now keep busy with daily worship, WSCF business, and keynote addresses, which are open to the public. The speakers are diverse, from Canadian theologian Dr. Gregory Baum to Brazilian educator, psychoanalyst and "theopoet" Dr. Rubem Alves. New SCM movements will be welcomed into the assembly from Iraq and Timor-Leste. Delegates will also get to learn about Montreal through "exposure visits" to Montreal's Chinatown, Aboriginal associations, and an organic farm, among others. The assembly's natural diversity leads to a "creative dynamic," said Ball, a Winnipeg-based Anglican. "My hope as an Anglican is that I can learn from how the assembly expresses unity in diversity. This is a place that does that in prayer, and I find that incredibly grounding." The Anglican Church of Canada and the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) are long-time partners of WSCF, and several Anglicans, including Ball, are living out this partnership on the ground. The Rev. Gwenda Wells of Montreal is working as an assembly chaplain, and Emily Carr, a candidate for priesthood, is coordinating the stewards. The Rev. Canon Yves-Eugène Joseph of Montreal wrote a French Bible study and will help to lead an ecumenical service. "I think [WSCF has] a wonderful opportunity to spread the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ at a time of huge decline in Christian membership," said Joseph. "If the church is to be reformed in order to keep preaching the good news, I believe it's through young Christian organizations like this." Founded in 1895, WSCF is one of the oldest international student Christian organizations in the world. It has more than 100 national movements over six regions, and its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. Famous WSCF members include Archbishop William Temple, Frère Roger of Taizé, and Samuel Kobia. The general assembly website is available here. Learn more about SCM Canada here.