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ABC says: don’t give up on the young

ABC says: don’t give up on the young

Sky News reports that both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope sent New Years Messages that encourage society to pay more attention to youth and not to give up hope on them:

Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Benedict have used their New Year messages to urge people not to give up on the younger generation.

Dr Rowan Williams said even though the UK experienced “angry” and “lawless” scenes in the UK during the summer, young people can “flourish” with the right love and support.

Similarly, the Catholic pontiff told worshippers at St Peter’s Basilica that young people were key to securing a future of hope, despite what he called “shadows on the horizon of today’s world”.


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John Shirley

P.S. I apologize for my grammatical errors! I should proof-read before I post! 🙂

John Shirley


I don’t believe it is so much our liturgical language or organ music. I have actually found the opposite to be true – it provides a sense of continuity for us. Many young adults crave a sense of historicity. Liturgically speaking, I have noticed that constant innovations turn us off. The authenticity aspect is actually more of the church being vulnerable – like we are – in world of uncertainty: economically, politically, and so on. I have crossed paths with some amazing clergy over the years, but, at the same time, I have encountered many clerics that aren’t willing to engage with young adults – for a variety of reasons (some understandable, I suppose, and some perhaps a bit shallow). Our questions, our doubts, our fears, our frustrations, and even our inhibitions toward “Church” are addressed, on some level, by the larger “Church,” but there is a need to meet young adults on a local level; to invite us into community; give us responsibility in accordance with our talents and gifts. Often we NEED to be told what our talents and gifts truly are.

We, as Episcopalians/Anglicans, are blessed with such a rich incarnational tradition, and at the center of it is Eucharist. I believe it is through community that we are able to reach the fullness of that Communion (saints past, saints now, saints yet-to-come, saints known to God alone, and saints who are saints by virtue of struggle for faith and love). I look out and see so many saints amongst my peers, but they lack a place to nurture their inherent calling; because, no one has spoken to, or personally invited to be a part of, the greater community.

Okay, I realize how impractical that approach is, and I am also aware that it is not a 100% guarantee (a hard line to sell as an investment in a time when many parishes are financially struggling – as a parish treasurer, I completely understand), but I maintain that when God became incarnate He took a chance; He took a chance with the Samaritan woman at the well; He took a chance when He called the disciples – to name only a few.

Christ’s great callings were often personal interactions/communications. It doesn’t mean that Photini (the Samaritan woman at the well) didn’t ever question or doubt; then again, she might not have – we don’t know. Likewise, we see Peter making a mess of his discpleship multiple times.

I suppose, my point is that the Church might not know it isn’t stepping outside of itstraditional “comfort” zones (I apologize for the generalization of this comment): step out of the sacristy/parish office/parish hall/choir, and start engaging in personal conversation/interaction. I don’t see it as the language being used, but rather the vehicle, or lack thereof, for it.

Our rich liturgical tradition feeds, strengthens, and encourages us, so I would argue for continuance of our Eucharistic settings, the BCP keeps us focused (a VERY valuable asset), and the inclusive language vs. non-inclusive language issue can be important, but I wouldn’t see it as a barrier either way.

My “insight” might be lopsided, but I hope it is an encouragment for the future well-being of our Church.

Leslie Scoopmire

It would be wonderful– not to mention a fulfillment of our mission as a church as well as “Church”– to understand that it is the youth who are giving up on us.


John, you did not sound condescending. It seems everyone does (well, many people do) want to have this conversation, but for some reason it doesn’t happen very often. I was looking forward to your thoughts and thank you for taking the time to write them.

I am interested to hear you say it is not the style of service as much as an authentic experience that your generation is seeking. Would you say the traditional language of liturgy – BCP, masculine imagery for God, organ music, etc. does speak to your generation, if it is done authentically? Or is a shift in language and structure – less formal, gender-neutral, more expansive imagery for God, any part of what it takes to speak to 20-somethings – and to move forward in general?

I realize this is not a conversation we can expect to bring great results in this forum, but yes, I am listening and thank you for sharing.

I very much agree with your last thought about each individual parish and congregation having its own ethos and its own gift. And I do think TEC in general could and should to more to hold that up.

Jennifer McNally

John Shirley

Jennifer, thank you for asking!

I have asked many of my peers the same questions, over the past two years: I will give my personal responses and some of the general responses I received from them.

Personally, I too am a “traditionalist.” My preference is for well-done, mystical liturgy, and, along with that, the sense of community that such a liturgy has the capability of perpetuating. However, that is a personal preference. Generally, I have been told, by many of the millenials I questioned, that they are truly seeking a sense of community – a place to belong and an identity to claim. Many “young adults”, myself included, LOVE the social-justice aspect of TEC. It speaks to uniting the world in a positive way! So, overwhelmingly, we as TEC have that on our side. However, many of the complaints/frustrations, that I have come across, include the current trend to try to “modernize” the religious experience. It’s not that millenials don’t appreciate the intent, but it can, at times, come across as unauthentic. For better or worse, my generation is all about experience (I am of course generalizing), and from that, we make our decisions.

Now, for an even more personal answer. I am quite happy in the Episcopal Church, but that was a intentional on my part. I grew up in a very devote Ukrainian Orthodox family, but, while studying Theology, in grad school, I decided that a church the values liturgy, Eucharist, and tradition, while being willing to let people question, doubt, and explore, was a much better fit. Trust me though, the change wasn’t easy – it was heartwrenching for myself and family and friends. However, after two years, I am completely convinced I made the correct choice and was not led astray by what I perceived as the Holy Spirit.

With that in mind, one of the other benefits, that not a lot of young people are aware of, is that each TEC parish has its own charism – it’s own approach to community, liturgy, outreach, and so on. Perhaps, we in the Church should make those various options known…

Jennifer, thank you, again, for asking! I didn’t mean for my previous post to sound condescending in anyway, and I greatly appreciate your willingness to listen (or in this case, read).

-John Shirley

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