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
I mentioned in my previous post that I’d be writing about the slippery slope of parishioners as consumers. Let me explain why that slope is so slippery.
This past August a study came out that found that when people go in search of a church, the most important factors—much more than the denominational affiliation—are the quality of the preaching and the welcome they receive. This makes a lot of sense. Why would you go somewhere to encounter God if you didn’t feel inspired or welcomed?
But below the surface there is a hint of a larger cultural problem related to church-going that is changing the way we relate to our religious institutions, and, more importantly, to God. Continue reading