Major conference celebrating alternative spirituality comes to Ypsi Township for the first time

ConVocation, which offers "a vibrant and knitted community for individuals who honor and align with mystical and esoteric paths," is coming to Ypsi Township Feb. 22-25.
When Mara Evenstar, co-owner of downtown Ypsilanti metaphysical shop Evenstar's Chalice, first visited one of the country's largest mystical gatherings, she not only found a larger pagan community to be a part of, but a mission that aligned directly with her and her business' values.

That event, ConVocation, annually offers a variety of programs and classes to "cultivate a vibrant and knitted community for individuals who honor and align with mystical and esoteric paths," according to the event website. And this year it's coming to Ypsilanti Township for the first time, running Feb. 22-25 at the Ann Arbor Marriott at Eagle Crest hotel.

"We've seen it from all sides – we've visited, I've taught classes, [and] we were in the merchant room for the first time last year," says Evenstar, whose business has sponsored the event for several years. "We were in such a good alliance with ConVocation's mission of accepting multiple paths of spirituality, bringing together a community, and learning from one another." 

ConVocation was held first in Troy in 1995 before moving to Dearborn, but event organizers made the decision this year to move the event to Ypsi. ConVocation Board President Moira Payne explains that the change in scenery came about as a natural progression, given the event's growing popularity.
Evenstar's Chalice co-owner Mara Evenstar.
"Moving hotels is actually a huge task," explains Payne. "We were much more familiar with hotels in the Ypsilanti area than the Detroit area, and Eagle Crest presented a unique opportunity for us to provide an all-inclusive experience for our guests where we won't share the space with any other events."

Payne also notes her appreciation for the Eagle Crest staff and their commitment to diversity, which aligns with ConVocation's values. 

"It's amazing to me, after working with hotels for this long, that we come across one that embraces the same ideas that we do in terms of inclusivity," she says. 

Payne wanted to ensure that this year's ConVocation paid special attention to Ypsi's residents and businesses. Some of this year's 200 classes and workshops will be taught by Ypsi residents, and attendees will also have the opportunity to take part in "Coming Back to Earth, Coming Back to Water," a guided meditation honoring the Huron River and its importance to Ypsi's community. Evenstar's Chalice will also return to the merchant room this year, with several other similar shops listed in the event's program.
ConVocation Board President Moira Payne at Evenstar's Chalice.
"I have a real love for Ypsi," Payne says. "I feel very strongly about supporting the community. If we show up for the community the community will show up for us."

Payne and the rest of ConVocation's board not only wanted to show up for the community by emphasizing local spiritual educators in their classes and local businesses in their merchant room, but also by encouraging event attendees to explore downtown Ypsi and its businesses. ConVocation Marketing Lead AQuil Dennison says that's a new endeavor for ConVocation.

"We believe in bringing people together. We attract all kinds, and Ypsi is definitely the place where we're very happy to plant our roots," Dennison says. "We definitely wanted to encourage people to go out and adventure, and feed back into the local community around the hotel because that works for us in several ways."

Dennison has spoken with business and restaurant owners throughout downtown Ypsi and offered free listings in the event's program to give event attendees opportunities to explore downtown while not attending classes or workshops. The result is an extensive program featuring not only similar local businesses like The Conjure Goddess and Mystic Creations, but several local restaurants featuring a variety of cuisines. Since many event attendees, including speakers and business owners, will be coming from across the country, Dennison and the ConVocation board wanted to make sure that those visiting Ypsi for the first time had plenty of choices.
ConVocation Marketing Lead AQuil Dennison at Evenstar's Chalice
"If people need a break in Ypsi, they don't have to travel more than two miles to see city life, which we are super excited for," Dennison says. "If they want to pick up a deck of tarot cards for a workshop or get something else to eat, it won't be a hard trip."

Evenstar agrees with Payne and Dennison that Ypsi is the perfect home for ConVocation. Coming off the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple downtown construction projects in 2023, she says an event like ConVocation could really help all of downtown Ypsi's businesses, not just the city's multiple metaphysical shops.

"Ypsi is in a state of revival," Evenstar says. "If attendees can also pop downtown and see the several shops in downtown Ypsi that are congruent with what ConVocation is doing, hopefully they can find a lot of spaces that feel like home to them."

Evenstar says her business's relationship with ConVocation will continue, and the event's relocation to Ypsi may even open up the possibility of working closer with the board in planning the event. Although she isn't teaching this year so she can focus on vending, she also sees herself returning to host classes at future ConVocations. 
Russ Jones, AQuil Dennison, Moira Payne, and Mara Evenstar at Evenstar's Chalice.
"We are talking about being more involved with board meetings as bandwidth opens up for us," Evenstar says. "Being a sponsor helps get our brand out a bit more, but it's really us wanting to support making these kinds of events available since there aren't many like this."

As of right now, both Payne and Dennison see Ypsi as a perfect home for ConVocation to stay for the long term, with hopes that the event will continue to grow and uplift Ypsi's local businesses as long as Ypsi will have it.

"It feels right to move in this direction," Payne says. "The hotel is beautiful. The staff are accommodating and accepting and supportive. It has been an incredible experience for us."

"We have really big visions," Dennison says. "We hope that after people see this year's success, even more people want to be on board. Ypsilanti is a great place for us to be."

For more information or to register to attend the event, visit ConVocation's website.

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

All photos by Doug Coombe.
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