Wednesday, November 19, 2003

A Lack of Passion

There's a study out that shows that Episcopal teenagers tend to score lower than the national average (for teens) when asked questions like "Do you feel close to God?",and "Is faith an important part of your life". They did score ABOVE the average when asked if the adults in their churches were hypocrites.

So what do I think of this study? I'm familiar with the basic project and have found it quite useful. They seem to be doing an excellent job. Do the numbers surprise me? No. Do they disturb me? Only sorta.

I believe that the numbers are in fact affected by the questioning phase of the teen years. That's aided and abetted by the overall poor job we're doing as a denomination in translating our faith into terms the teens understand. We are by and large a rather laid back intellectual denomination. (By intellectual I'm not saying we're smart or even well educated but that we tend to approach our faith lives from a cerebral rather than visceral point of view) This creates a problem in that our kids don't see us being passionate about this part of lives. They are far more likely to see passion about our favorite sports teams, politics, music, TV or whatever. Is it surprising that they don't feel "close to God" or that they see too many of us as hypocrites? When I ask an adult how they would explain their faith life to someone else (of any age) I tend to get long discourses either on tradition and practice or a helpless shrug.

The questions our young people are asking is "Why should I care?", "What affect will it have on me?", "Why is this more important than the fun stuff? (Because they clearly see that damn few of us get any joy out of all this church stuff)"

This is not ECUSA's fault. The national church is not interacting with our kids. It's not the dioceses fault because we're not interacting much more with the kids (I'll see any given youth maybe twice a year except for the very active ones whom I'll see about 6-8 times). Plop down in the pew this Sunday and look around. That's who is failing our youth. Then pop out a mirror and include yourself (me too. I'm dealing with a fairly large hairy crisis in my own personal ministry life because I'm not sure I'm making a damn bit of difference).
If a young person walked into your parish this Sunday as a total stranger what would they see about the life of a Christian in the Anglican tradition? Where would they see, hear and feel? Are you offering something that would change the numbers in the survey up or down?

I wish I had a quick easy answer. First because it would be such a boost to the church I love. Second because it would make me rich and famous. I'm working on it. What are you doing?

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

An interesting weekend

Sometimes real life just demands to be let in. Over the weekend WNY was hit with a terrific wind storm. Top gusts hit 70+ MPH. It knocked out the power at my house for some 30 hours. Given that the temps were in the 30's the wind chill fell to I'd-rather-not-think-about-it ranges. The heat in my house? Electric. Lights, stove, computer, cable, you name it, it was out. We survived one night of it bundled under massive amounts of blankets. My darling teen daughter hit the bed in three shirts, full pants, socks and her slippers PLUS three blankets! Meanwhile my mom's "summer" home (long story) had a 30 foot tree fall on it. There wasn't any damage (except to the tree) but it made for some exciting phone calls and a fun trip through the storm for me to inspect the house.
Through it all it's amazing how much I've really come to take for granted. Before the next storm hits it's my plan to have at least one alternate heat source (you try and find a kerosene heater in the middle of a state of emergency), an alternate cooking source (propane stove, already purchased) plus basics like spare candles, flashlight batteries etc.
Was it scary? Yeah it was in some ways. I was afraid for my wife who has circulation problems. In a storm that violent people who live in 100 year old houses should be a little concerned. In the end we survived (Thank you Lord) and that makes a major difference in how I can look back on all this.
I'd be just as happy not to have to worry about stuff like this of course.

Monday, November 10, 2003

And yet another....

Seems like I'm a roll, and not a good one either. Just came across a notice that Bishop Crittendon, the former Bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania passed away back in September. He was 95. More importantly in my own walk of faith in my teen years he was "my" bishop. We didn't even live in that diocese at the time but he was the bishop that I cared about and looked to as I grew up.
We had lived in that diocese for a couple of years when I was in elementary school. We made some friends and a few years later my mom was asked to serve as camp nurse for the diocesan camp. We lived in the Diocese of Pittsburgh at the time but that was fine with everyone. Soon I and both my brothers were attending that camp and we eventually all worked for the camp as well. It was during that time that I came to know "The Bish". Bishop Crittendon would show up and spend part of a day with us. Most importantly he would talk with us and answer our questions. For that short period of time he was all ours and he remained ours in our hearts for years to come. The Bish confirmed both of my brothers at camp with me serving as his acolyte. We were a sight. He was in his full episcopal regalia. My brothers and I were in cutoff shorts wearing brightly colored shirts from South America. They were the nicest clothes we had at camp!
After I took my job as youth missioner my thoughts turned to my first Bishop. So I wrote him a short note thanking him for his part in setting me on the road that led me to where I find myself today. I got a nice note back from him. In the end I hope I never let the Bish down. I'll miss him always.