Nuts and Bolts Blog – April 16, 2018
Happy Birthday Nuts and Bolts Blog!! The first issue of the Blog came out on April 15, 2013. We’re 5!!! Thank you for your faithful support and encouragement these last five years.
As promised, this week’s issue highlights the thoughts of another Province V Synod Deputy, Felicity Thompson as she reflects on her experiences from her first Synod last weekend.
Felicity Thompson is an alternate lay deputy for General Convention, has served on Diocesan Convention’s Committee on Reference and is a Bishop’s Appointee on Diocesan Council.
What Synod Meant to Me …
This was my first Synod meeting and I was looking forward to meeting Episcopalians from Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Illinois. I listened to reports and presentations on diverse topics. I looked across the room of approximately eighty lay people, priests and bishops. There were a few minorities and young adults among the group. The average age among attendees was probably 60 years old.
Campus ministries were well represented with reports that put smiles on our faces. We discussed how to reach out to our young adults who are currently not in institutions of higher learning because they are working full time or did not take the traditional route. This matter was addressed further when we split into small groups.
I spoke with some of the young adults. Most of them got involved because they had jobs with the church in their diocese. They shared my views about getting more youth involved, especially minorities. One participant told the story of her Millennial children who are not attending church any longer because the church doesn’t appeal to them. Another participant that I spoke with said she felt a need to take on more responsibility because she wanted to see a representation of everyone at church and at Conventions.
There was a presentation by the Bishops United Against Gun Violence. They support and listen to the youth especially after the latest fatal shootings in schools. The bishops show their support by participating with the youth at planned vigils, marches and other events. This is a fantastic way to further the Episcopal Church’s mission and engage youth and young adults.
Most churches realize that their congregations are aging. They also recognize that they are losing members and having difficulty attracting new members especially in this technological and secular age. We need our pews filled with young adults and their families. As Episcopalians we need to find a way to keep the attention of the youth we have invested in with years of Sunday School, Journey to Adulthood, Confirmation and Pilgrimage. Some of these children were acolytes, some read the lessons and were ushers in church. We lose most of them when they graduate from high school. Unless they go to a college that has a campus ministry or remain connected to their churches through meaningful programs or mentorship we simply lose them.
Some churches are too busy doing what they usually do and don’t notice their dwindling membership till it’s too late. In Mark 1:17, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’” The method to reach out to our youth and young adults must adapt to the realities of a technological environment. They are a different generation who do not want to be “spoon fed”. They want to be engaged and do things that make a difference not just in their lives but in the lives of others. This is the information age where issues are readily available on social media. We need to listen to how to continue supporting our youth spiritually after high school. The need is there. During our small group discussions at Synod we talked about intentional research, prayer and collectively working on a solution.
We also discussed another group of youth who do not find a place for themselves in the Episcopal Church. They are the children of immigrants who attended Anglican churches. They have grown up in the Anglican faith. They identify with the Episcopal Church, our prayers, the way we worship and want to be involved. We can find ways to engage them in things they find meaningful also. Music and breaking bread are universal languages. Episcopal churches that have food pantries and soup kitchens could use service in these environments as ways to get the attention of these youth and find a way to continue engaging them by listening to their ideas and concerns. The church hand bell choir and the playing of various instruments is another way to engage youth.
Since my return I have had discussions with some friends about this issue. We thought it would be a great idea to identify youth who are already active in church and do not go to a college where there is a campus ministry. Getting them involved with the Diversity and Inclusion committee for each diocese would be a great place for us to start listening to their ideas on how we can be more accommodating of Millennials and the young adults identified as Generation Z.
Our churches will grow with new young members who will find a purpose and have a need to come to church regularly across Province V. The solution will not be the same for every church but first we have to listen and listen hard ready to act right.
In our work with VISIONS Inc over the last few years, we have learned the importance of hearing one another’s stories. Experiencing an event through the eyes of another helps each of us gain new insights that can benefit all of us. Thanks so much, Felicity, for inviting us to see your first experience of Synod through your eyes. Your encouragement for us to hear the voices of our young adults is valuable for us.
Let us pray –
O God, we pray and beseech you to guide and protect young people from the dangers that are ever present in our world today.
Be with them, as they experience both sickness and health, sorrow and joy, loneliness and friendship, success and failure.
Gracious God, give to them the courage and strength to make wise decisions as they journey through life.
Grant us open hearts and minds to truly hear their voices and stories. May we have courage to recognize our need for their insight and energy. We make this prayer through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council