Virtually unnoticed by many over the past few days - perhaps happily so by its oft-overburdened, purple-shirted participants - is the meeting of the House of Bishops at Kanuga Conferences.
Mild tidbits here and there have sprinkled themselves over blogs and Twitter, but it sounds like listening to the sound of one's heartbeat and walking in the spring rains of North Carolina can be just as much of a tonic as any post-Sunday-service potluck pie.
Of yesterday, Arizona's Kirk Smith notes:
The theme for today was "Reaching Young Adults with the Gospel." We got the background on generational differences from Lisa Kimball, who teaches at Virginia Seminary. I realized again what a bad job the Episcopal Church has done in this area, but there are signs of hope. Key for me was understanding that we don't do ministry for young adults we do it with them, and that means spending more time listening to their needs; where they are instead of trying to impose our programs and conceptions on them. Much of what was discussed the clergy of the Diocese of Arizona heard at our recent youth summit, but it was nice to learn about some best practices from the larger church. In the afternoon we heard about two projects involving young people, the Episcopal Service Corps which now has about 20 sites around the country where young interns are giving service to the church while living in community, and the Relational Evangelism project which trains 20-30 year olds to engage in conversations about God with their peers--they receive a stipend for this and it seems to be very effective. So, already I have lots of new ideas to try out at home!
[To this point, Scott Gunn gently reminds the House that some youth-gettin' strategies are better than others.]
Here's how the Office of Public Affairs traced Saturday's content:
The topics and focus for the day was Proclamation of the Gospel to/with Young Adults: How can we be church in the 21st Century. Presenters were Lisa Kimball of Virginia Theological Seminary, and the Rev. Arrington Chambliss and Jason Long from the Diocese of Massachusetts. Lisa shared personal vignettes which illustrated work needed to be done with the Episcopal Church and young adults. Defining “young adults” is very complex and depends on context, but she focused on 19 -35 years old. She shared stats and facts about this age group. Lisa presented discussion questions for the bishops: What are the challenges facing the young adults you know? What are their strengths? To what extent is the Church in your diocese reaching people like this? The bishops shared reactions and comments. Lisa noted: there is a deep need in the church for faith formation in the home; “sadly” young adults are missing from our worship service; and those in 20s and 30s want to be in relation with the Episcopal Church.
We ask, because we want to know: Is this perhaps the formation of a lament over a fact that's now firmly established and is causing anger and resignation in the face of futility; or is it the beginnings of something new pouring forth? Certainly, from Brian Maclaren and others, we have heard of how The Episcopal Church is uniquely situated to be something great for the next generations of Christians if it can only turn itself enough to see its own assets.
Bishop Greg Rickel of Olympia went back to his laptop and turned all this conversation into some pertinent questions for persons ages 19-35.
1. What are some of your interests?
2. What do you do with your free time?
3. To what extent do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
4. Did you grow up in a religiously observant family?
a. If so, what if any spiritual practices do you maintain?
5. What makes you angry?
6. Where do you find hope?
7. What advice would you give the Church today?
Friday's summation is brought to you by Minnesota's bishop, Brian Prior.
The Presiding Bishop addressed the assembly, talking about the connections between the HOB meeting schedule and the announced topics: Proclamation of the Gospel to Young Adults, Islam and Christianity, The Proposed Anglican Covenant, Recruiting and Preparing Young People for Church Leadership. She focused on leadership in a changing world, urging the Church to raise up leaders to be agents of change for the sake of God’s mission.
HOB Vice President Bishop Dean Wolfe of Kansas talked about the seven core values of HOB. Following that, there were discussions about the use of Facebook, texting and tweeting during the HOB meetings, and a consensus was reached among the members. [We're guessing no? -ed.]
During a Town Hall meeting, the bishops discussed various topics of interest.
Also tweeting in concert with the conversation, but not necessarily about it (whatever DID they decide about that as a group?), was Texas' bishop, C. Andrew Doyle, who asked,
So #Episcopal tech friends under 45: what is/was the most transformative, spiritual, or worshipful experience that drew you into the church?