Kanuga Empowered Youth – KEY Conferences
Kanuga’s two celebrated youth conferences grew from one of Kanuga’s first conferences in 1928. Today, KEY Conferences, or Kanuga Empowered Youth, seeks to strengthen and expand the vision for which Kanuga’s founder, Bishop Finlay, and the original youth coordinators laid the foundation.
The summer conference, Youth Week, consists of three tracks: JYP (Junior Young People), SYP (Senior Young People) and AWWWY (Adults Who Work with Youth). Together, Winterlight, Kanuga’s year-end youth celebration, and Youth Week form KEY Conferences, with a mission to serve youth and adults who work with youth who seek empowerment, inspiration and community. KEY invites participants into a vibrant nationwide fellowship that fosters connection and leadership within the Church and in the world.
Generations of teens and preteens have formed a joyful community of like-minded individuals who inspire each other through fun, friendship and faith. These young people gather at Kanuga to bolster their faith while enjoying fellowship and free time. This conference series is designed to invigorate the initiative and influence of participants so they may return to their youth groups and ministries back home and inspire others.
Mirais Holden, one of the SYP coordinators for KEY Conferences, shares, “Kanuga is the first place I felt the deep sense of love, acceptance and belonging that comes from being a part of the national Episcopal family. The peace I felt at Kanuga’s youth conferences stayed with me as I grew, and when I became an adult, I returned to Kanuga year after year to pass those blessings along to other youth.”
As 2016 comes to an end, teens will gather together for Winterlight 41 at Kanuga to celebrate the new year, bare their souls to each other and rekindle fires in each other’s hearts. The celebration will begin on December 27 and continues until New Year’s Day. This year, the Winterlight theme comes from Exodus 3:1-18, when God spoke to Moses through the burning bush and Moses answered “Here I am.” These three simple words represent a complete faith and devotion to the Lord, which these teens will build up in themselves and each other over these five special days.
Reflecting on the power of the youth community at Kanuga, Mirais adds, “I believe that, particularly in today’s confusing and fast-paced world, our youth need a place to feel God’s presence and create authentic connection with one another. Kanuga is that place.”
Winterlight 41 is a wonderful break from the norm, where teens can dance and sing with old friends as they invite new friends to join the celebration. Invite someone you know to come together within this close-knit community and unlock your potential exploring the triumphs and struggles of faith through workshops and hanging out with your peers.
Kate McDonald has been a part of Kanuga Empowered Youth since 2006. She also serves as a coordinator. When asked about her initial experiences with KEY Conferences, Kate said, “I saw people celebrating radical self-acceptance and encouraging vulnerability. I feel so much gratitude for this community of people sharing their most authentic, imperfect selves to each other. KEY Conferences and the friends I’ve made at Kanuga are the bedrock of my spiritual and creative life. KEY has taught me how to effectively build community, foster meaningful relationships and lead with humility.”