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Tag Archives: GC2012

Going to the beach for Jesus: Part 1

I am writing this on the flight to the Province 8 Conference for Episcopal College Students (and their Chaplains.). This yearly conference is held at whichever ministry site has the resources and gumption to host it; last year was UCDavis, this year, because none of the sites with staff could do the job, the intrepid band of students from University of Hawaii are doing it.

So I am en route to Honolulu. (Hey, nine times out of ten following Jesus leads to the cross, but that tenth time, turns out Jesus is heading to Hawaii. I am not questioning.)

And I am taking this opportunity to point out the following things:

1.) UH has no staff for campus ministry. None. Zip. Nada. When I find out how to say “none” in Hawaiian, I will add that to this list. Their ministry currently consists of some amazing students who show up to the Cathedral, and other local churches, and who come to this yearly conference, and who do so on such a consistent basis, that they convinced the Province coordinator to let them host this conference themselves.

Which leads to:

2.). Next year, as things currently stand with the draft budget, this conference won’t exist. Likewise the program that will send three of my students to General Convention. So for students like the young adults from Hawaii, or the student from Utah, who is also on my flight, bam! No more contact with young adult Episcopalians.

This is what the wider church provides, in terms of campus ministry. Events like Prov 8, and opportunities like the Young Adult Festival at General Convention (which I went to in 2003, and which 3 of my students are attending this year). The Church Center doesn’t mandate what we do, and they don’t give curriculum, and they don’t tell us what to do and not do– they empower networks without which an already-nearly-impossible-job would be entirely impossible.

Right now, there is a needed conversation happening about the respective roles of denominational structure vs local structure. And that’s fantastic.

But this conversation won’t be fruitful if we continue to misunderstand what the different structures are capable of. Local structures, right now in many places, lack the resources and vision necessary to enable networks that work across traditional boundary lines. But larger structures can do that. In fact, if we’re all going to do our jobs well, larger structures must do that.

Larger structures actually do have a role, especially in a time when local parishes and dioceses are so cash-strapped that they are having trouble keeping the lights on, much less looking to start new ministries. (And let’s face it– any ministry with anyone under 45 is going to be a very long term investment).

My colleague and fellow AZ deputy, the Rev. Susan Snook, has written several excellent blog posts exploring ways to correct the budget problems, at least in the short term*. (Susan+ is one of those people I give great thanks for. To some, God has given talent for math and budgets, to others….sarcasm. And shoes.). The long-term exploration of how to fix the budget process, and the balance between denomination and local levels, continues.

Meanwhile, I head to Hawaii, and if this is to be our last Conference with these amazing young adults, then may it be a profound and joyous experience for all of us.

Future Present Church

First, a story.
Last week, a retired priest came into the office I share with several other people. He had come out of a meeting, and upon seeing me, typing at my computer, he guestured broadly, and declared, “And here sits Megan, a future priest of the church!”
Without thinking, I responded, “Well, I’m here now.”

Silence fell in the office. He was flustered, and tried to cover.
“Ah, of course you are! A future and PRESENT priest of the church!”

The proposed budget for 2013-2016 for DFMS* was released March 1. It will be voted on at General Convention in July, so nothing is official yet. And you can download it here.

Some preliminaries: staffing was increased by $1.4million dollars, over the next 3 years.

Funding for Hispanic/Latino ministries was cut, as was funding to dioceses with large Native populations and ministries. Funding was also cut to historic African-American colleges (yes! We have several Historic Black Episcopal colleges. Which now have less funding.)

Seminarian grants were zeroed out entirely, as was the line item funding the General Ordination Exams. (Which will conceivably run into some canonical issues. We aren’t Free Will Baptists, folks. We have rules.)

And funding for all Formation: youth, adult, young adult, and college ministry went from over $3 million to about $286,000 over three years. That’s a 90% cut in funding for the young people. (Good numbers breakdown here, for those of us who are scared of spreadsheets.)

No more Episcopal Youth Event, no more Youth Presence at General Convention, no more Young Adult Festival at General Convention, no more funding help for provincial conferences for youth and young adults, no more PLSE program to encourage young people to consider ordained ministry, nope nada.

The given rationale is that this sort of ministry is best done by local dioceses and parishes.

And I would be peachy-keen with said rationale, if I had widespread experience of that actually occurring.

Instead, in my experience, the dioceses, not to mention parishes, are not really any more flush with cash than DFMS is. And my experience is that while they mean well, when push comes to shove, and they face a tight budget, they do precisely what the Executive Committee just did, and they slash funding for anyone under 45.

Dioceses can, when they have their act together, come up with some good ministry for teh youthes. So can parishes.

But, and this is important, so pay attention. THEY CANNOT DO IT ALONE.

COD is right; you cannot dump an unfunded mandate on unprepared and unfunded people and expect them to do it. That is both unfair and, actually, unChristian. It is a setup to fail. It is, for lack of a better word, tea-partying in the Church.

You actually want to empower the grassroots, to devolve ministry to locals who are in touch with their context? Then you have to empower them for real. Educate them, make sure they have the funding. Put them in touch with a network of resources to help them succeed. Put them in a community to support them.

Because youth work, young adult work, work with college students is too important to fail. It gets said all the time, but these people aren’t the future of the church, they are its present, and its hope. To fail so spectacularly to invest in them is to fail at the sure and certain hope to which God calls us.

I feel like I have been saying this at least twice a week since my ordination, but here it is again.

When programs like this are cut, you lose the next generation of leaders, both ordained and lay. We are beginning to see this now, as the Boomers begin to retire. The second-career clergy are many, and they are wonderful, but we are losing the clergy who are able to put in 30-40 years of continuous experience into the church. We lost them once because of massive cuts to funding like this in the 1960s, and now we’re doing it again.

When I was a teenager, I left the church because there was no youth program (among other reasons). But I am a priest now, because of college ministry. I am a priest because the church made an effort to help me discern and decided I was important, and invested in me.

If this church wants young people, like the constant refrain says, then step up.

Investment time.

*DFMS: the official registered name for The Episcopal Church’s non-profit– Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. It keeps me from writing TEC all the time, and is less jingoistic than saying “National Church”, when we include several other countries (Haiti, Ecuador, etc) and much of Western Europe.