Thursday, August 28, 2008

At least they're consistent

Earlier this summer I noted my discontent with "The Living Church" (I'm So Angry I Could Spit). I wrote them a letter. In the earlier post I said I'd publish it here if I didn't hear back.

Well, they haven't published it and I've not heard back from them. Plus on the latest cover they've done it again. The cover shows young people taking Communion with a headline "Camp at Kanuga". Inside? Nothing. The cover is a tease, a heart warming "Gee isn't that nice" moment. Once you open the cover it's back to the "important" business of the church. The Living Church holds itself up as a news magazine but uses its cover for apparently non-news items. I find the practice astonishing.

So here's what I sent earlier in the year:

Your cover of the July 27, 2008 issue is the perfect image of what is wrong with (how we treat youth) in the Episcopal church.  A cover photo with a nice headline.  I was filled with anticipation of a substantial article about the Episcopal Youth Event (EYE) and/or the state of youth/youth ministry in our church.  Instead I got one additional picture and a very brief editorial.  The editorial amounted to "Gee, youth ministry is a nice thing and we're glad someone (else) is doing it".
Once again our youth are window dressing.  Once again they are used by church institutions for a bit of "feel good".  Once again no substantial support is placed behind the window dressing.  It is a metaphorical pat on the head before returning to the "important" business of our faith community.  In my diocese we refer to this as "potted plant syndrome".  Potted plants are there to look nice.  In reality they are given the minimum amount of attention required and are kept around only so long as they don't get in the way.
Additionally let me challenge you on journalistic grounds.  A subscriber picks up the issue, sees the photo and asks "Gee, what's EYE?".  They will not find the answer inside.   Again, the cover photo is simply window dressing.

Let me note quickly that there are dioceses and parishes out there that do a better job than that.  But the number, being well less than 100%, is too low.  Still too often our view of young people in church is that we've created programs for them "over there", away from "real church", "adult church", "big church".  Monies for youth ministry is too often cut early in the budget process when times get tight.  Some one once offered this test - compare your youth budget to the budget for garbage removal, the salary for your youth minister to your sexton (sextons are chosen because they are among the lowest paid staff).  In fact take a look at the percentage of your time, talent and treasure that are directed toward youth ministry.  Then decide if you can look your young people in the eye and tell them that there is an "emphasis on youth ministry". 
In the case of The Living Church I'm afraid you'd fail that test.

The words in parentheses in the first sentence were substituted for "youth ministry". It's not my intent to challenge the youth ministers but the rest of the church, most especially the power structure.

My respect for and interest in TLC has declined markedly.



StLouisJohn said...


Very well done, if you ask me, JP. Potted plant syndrome...good description.

It seems The Living Church, as well as a lot of other things in our church, just doesn't get it with the youth.

Maybe I don't either...but I do know this:

Our younger parishioners can see right through this like glass as to what it is and how they are being used. Yes, used.

When I was going to St. Timothy's, which engages in what I would call an ISYM - Industrial Strength Youth Ministry, I learned a bit by osmosis.

One thing I learned -- this world is NOT going to go to the toilet in 20 years. These kids are savvy, smart, and intuitive. And we as a people will be better off, I think, when the next generation takes the reins.

Another thing I learned -- we are all peers in this Church, and to a larger part, the world. I repeat - PEERS. Not "What can we do for them to keep them in the pews to tithe so that someone will tidy up the columbarium when we are gone?

Instead what can we all do together as peers in faith? I think the latter would not result in a sum but a synergy.

I've rambled enough. I never felt a great draw to The Living Church. Your post reinforces my lack of interest in it.


DaYouthGuy said...

I'd say you "get it" perfectly!

PseudoPiskie said...

I gave up on Living Church when they were publishing all the bishop wanted notices except ours. Then they seemed to descend to being a mouthpiece for those who are stuck in history that never was. I quit going there at least a year ago.