The Seminary of the Southwest 60th Anniversary Lectures was held on its campus in Austin, TX . Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori gave two lectures at the event, in addition to preaching at the Eucharist.
The evening lecture was entitled “Leadership for a 21st century church: a body theology”, and the morning lecture was “Theology, Science and Culture: A Conversation with Katharine Jefferts Schori”, which also included time for Q&A.
Two seminarians offered reflections on the Presiding Bishop’s lectures. Alex Easley, MDiv 2015, Diocese of Texas, wrote a piece called “Ask them to stay”, excerpted below:
In every Episcopal church I’ve been to, the twenty- and thirty-something demographic is pitifully absent from the pews. We have youth groups and college ministries and Young Mothers Bible studies, but we don’t seem to be creating a very hospitable space for those young adults who find themselves in a sort of in-between space – fresh out of school, living on their own, starting their careers, and looking for a place to call their spiritual home. When I asked Bishop Katharine to share with us some thoughts on how we might address this issue, she more or less responded thus: If young adults want a place in the church, they have to speak up and make it themselves.
There is certainly truth in this assertion. Young adults will not achieve much by passively waiting for someone to solve this problem for them, and I very much appreciate Bishop Katharine’s recognition of the need for agency among young adults in bringing about the changes they would like to see in the church. But I think this response only answers half of the problem. As a church that prides itself on being welcoming, the Episcopal Church needs to pay attention to how it might be a community that better meets the spiritual needs of young adults. If we are to live fully into our mission to “proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; teach, baptize, and nurture new believers; and respond to human need by loving service,” then we have to invite young adults into our congregations and ask them to stay.
Josh Shipman, MDiv 2015, Diocese of Colorado, entitled his article “Is humanity a bag o’ glass”, referencing the old Saturday Night Live skit where the more than questionable toymaker who markets his “bag o’ glass”:
Bishop Katharine focused on embodied ministry. We are individual bodies, but we are also the Body of Christ. We are responsible for the love and care of those within our Body, the Church, but we are also responsible for those outside the Church. Additionally, we are responsible for the wellbeing of the celestial body on which we live: the earth, our fragile island home. This is a tall order. This seems like a big bag ‘o glass.
But Bishop Katharine assures us that we as ministers (both lay and ordained) in the Episcopal Church can handle this task. Mainly, she says, we need to listen: to each other and to those outside our tradition. We need to find commonalities amongst our various traditions (and non-traditions, as it were), but we also need to celebrate our differences. Humanity has a treasure trove of religious ideas. We need to celebrate our rich religious heritages. And within the great story of humanity, we need to strengthen our own individual stories.
The question becomes, then, is humanity a bag o’ glass, something that is broken and dangerous? Or is it a mosaic, something that is creative and beautiful?