It was the day before Christmas Eve. The single busiest day of the year for a clergy person. And instead of printing bulletins or polishing a sermon or even rushing around the over-crowded mall to pick up those last few stocking stuffers, I was sitting at the piano, plunking out the notes to a brand new piece of music. I hadn’t done this in years—hunching over the keyboard, pencil in hand to mark beats and breaths. I used to do this all day, working through opera scores trying to make little black notes into music. Continue reading
This past Monday, December 19th, I celebrated the first anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. In honor of the occasion, I thought I’d share what I have found the most difficult part of being a priest, the thing I felt like no one warned me about or trained me for. And it is: when your baptismal vows and your ordination vows conflict. Continue reading
As the Curate in a healthy suburban parish, one of my main responsibilities is to shepherd the various “Youth Ministries” at our church (not pictured). To make a long story short: kids are generally wonderful, but busy and church is not often on the top of the priority list. This is especially true in the High School age group where various factors—from school pressures, to extra-curriculars and developmental urges to resist and reject anything and everything in the name of constructing an individual identity are all working against regular participation in Youth Group activities. I know we are not alone in suffering this dynamic. The areas that have the most success are, as seems to be the case with most parishes, mission trips and service work.
This is no small thing. To awaken in young people the desire to give their time and energy, to get them to put down their phones and look a homeless person in the eye while giving him a sandwich, or sweat over a construction project for an elderly woman in need is as important as anything else they might learn in their lives. In a culture of “me first,” learning to be among others as one who serves is very much a Gospel education.
These exciting, exotic and engrossing activities (that, let’s be honest, also look good on a college resume), seem to be the dominant mode for “Youth Groups” across The Episcopal Church. Forging relationships is the focus. Relationships with a few caring and devoted non-parental adults, yes, and most importantly, relationships with their peers. The kids will come if they have fun, like each other, and get food, the thinking goes. This is approach that the Rite 13, Journey to Adulthood, and Young Adults in the Church curriculum–which has been the dominant youth group formation curricula for a generation, has taken.
As someone formed by that track, I can tell you: it’s incomplete. It’s not enough not because relationships are bad, or that mission trips are unnecessary (as is often the case in the life, the problem is a matter of degree, not direction) its incomplete because it glorifies relationship with others above relationship with God. There needs to be a balance. Continue reading