Embrace Liverpool wasn’t familiar to me before I received the invitation to attend the 2015 event in Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral on Saturday, 21st November. The event is for young people and is a call to them to know God more personally each day and to encounter His love for them. In the words of the conference programme this day was about the opportunity “for young people to encounter the Holy Spirit and set the world on fire, inspired by what St. Catherine of Sienna said – if we are to become who we’re meant to be! God has a purpose for us and He calls all of us, so let us put aside our usual worries and concerns right now and bring ourselves before God who loves us, letting Him change, transform and inspire our lives for His greater glory! AMEN.”
This is the second year of the event and this year it coincided with the Feast of Christ the King. Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral is dedicated to Christ the King. This event is organised by young people for young people and what an amazing job they did. The Embrace core team consists of 7 members and a wider team of 50 volunteers and the success of the day is a credit to their hard work, organisation and passion. From registration at 09.00 to the conclusion at 18.00 the day was so well structured with a variety of activities including workshops, music, worship, testimony, drama and key note speakers.
There were Embrace volunteers, with their distinctive orange T-shirts, at every corner directing, advising and helping. As well as the main events there were about 40 religious congregations, charities, communities or organisations, with stalls advertising their work, situated around the cathedral. I was with the Christian Brothers who had a stall promoting the vocation of the Christian Brother.
One of the keynote speakers was David Wells. He had a background as a RE teacher and I found him very engaging and a great communicator. His reflection was called, “Love Chooses You”, a powerful retelling of the Gospel in 7 minutes. It was obvious that David had experience of working with young people as his delivery was personal, humorous, relaxed and he has a great ability to deliver deep truths of our faith in style which appeals to young people.
Another of the keynote speakers was Fr. Frankie Mulgrew, newly ordained priest, who in a former life was a stand-up comedian. His sharing was based on his book, “Does God LOL” and looked at the ‘fun’ side of God and how He calls us to be a joyful people, living our lives to the full.
The workshops were very varied. Frank Cotrell-Boyce, who is a award winning screenwriter and novelist, gave a workshop on ‘Faith and the Media’. David Wells was in action again and the theme of his workshop was that ” you are truly remarkable, you are not an examination statistic, and why, if you dare let God into your life, it will become an adventure more exciting and rewarding than you can imagine.” Another interesting workshop was delivered by Alan Field, a Liverpool born ex-criminal, who shared his conversion story after a near death experience in Thailand. Alan has gone on to fulfill his dream of becoming a film maker and produced his own documentary, based on the Camino pilgrimage, called “Road to Santiago”. Later on there was testimony from Rachel Mannix, a university student, on how her relationship with God turned her life around.
While all this was happening there was a very busy crew of volunteers checking sound, rehearsing music and dramas in preparation for the celebration of the Eucharist at 4.00 pm. There was also quiet time for prayer and reflection with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Reconciliation.
The celebration of the Eucharist was very moving with song, drama, dance and ritual. The main concelebrant was Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP of Liverpool. In his message to the gathering he said that, “Building God’s kingdom is a task given to every follower of Jesus. We do this in our everyday lives by bringing the mercy of God to people we meet at school, college, university or work. In one sense it takes very little, just be yourself. But getting to be yourself means that you have to get to know Jesus first and learn how to be his disciple. That is the way to flourish and build up the Kingdom of God.”
What amazed me about this conference was that it was completely organised by young people in such a professional manner. It was a huge undertaking. Everything was so well organised and ran smoothly. Everything was also free for those attending! However, it was their open display of faith that left a lasting impression. To them God Matters. We live in an age where it’s not very ‘cool’ or ‘popular’ to profess our faith openly or to live Gospel values.
In fact we may feel isolated or shunned in doing so. These young people at Embrace Liverpool were openly and very naturally expressing their faith in song, dance, drama, witness and liturgy. The hope of the organisers is that the young people present would
” grow in their love and relationship with Christ, who brings all meaning to their lives, and that they would leave the Cathedral on fire, ready to share the hope and love of Jesus Christ.”
There is HOPE for the Church!
I would like to thank the Christian Brother Community of David, Christy and Fergus in St. Timothy’s, Liverpool for their welcome, hospitality and kindness to me during my visit. This is living the gospel message!
If you would like to learn more about the Christian Brother vocation check out http://www.christianbrothervocation.org