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Tom Ehrich: Boomers need to cede control to the young

Tom Ehrich: Boomers need to cede control to the young

Baby boomer Tom Ehrich believes many in his generation are “addicted to control” and should rightfully cede power to the younger set. This is true in political life, and also in our churches, he writes:

At a stage in life when God wants us to “dream dreams,” we are fighting against change and empowering demagogues who use our control issues as cover for their soak-the-people, feed-the-rich schemes – including playing political football with our own Medicare and Social Security benefits.

I see this most clearly in mainline Protestant churches, which are literally dying under the weight of old ideas, old methods, old expectations, and old leaders who behave as if they would rather see their congregations die than yield control.

Healthiest congregations tend to be startups, not because young startup pastors are more capable, but because they don’t have older members standing in their way.

I see it in suburban communities where older taxpayers are rejecting school spending that would benefit a younger generation’s children.

I see it in progressive seminaries, where older leaders are still fighting feminist battles in a post-feminist era. I see it in the Roman Catholic Church, where old men are forcing yet another generation to fight the abortion battle that gave them purpose after Vatican II.

I saw it in crowd shots at both parties’ national conventions. In a nation where the average age is said to be 25 and the nonwhite presence is growing, both parties seemed oddly old and, at the GOP’s convention, oddly white.

I doubt that younger cadres are any wiser or more skilled. Many, in fact, are proving unprepared for complex decision-making. But the answer to that is training and experience on the job, not exclusion.

I doubt that today’s fresh ideas have magical properties. Some new ideas in technology seem shallow and trivial. But fresh ideas at 25 can mature into better ideas at 35 — if their creators are allowed air to breathe.

In what seems like another lifetime, we once shouted for attention and demanded that older cadres get out of our way. Fine. That’s what youth does. But we are still shouting for attention, still demanding control. Why?

I think many are addicted to control. By that I mean an addiction comparable to alcoholism, an addiction we will feed at any cost even though it makes our lives unmanageable.

Read full post here. What do you think?


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Bill Dilworth

“…we singe…”

I saw this happen earlier this year, when Father knocked the thurible against the edge of the altar by mistake and hot coals went everywhere… 😉

OK, you have a point about the music. Less so about the readings IMO – I’m of the “stop emoting so much and let the text speak for itself” school of thought. Even with lots of “passion,” though, I think most scripture readings are pitched a little to high for most kids (“Mommy, what’s a demoniac?”).

Of course, the ideal solution would be to have everybody show up before Mass and have both adult ed and SS then. I wonder what percentage of Episcopal parishes do anything like that? For that matter, I wonder how many Protestant congregations still stick to the old Sunday School pattern of my youth?

Adam Wood

I would agree with what your describing for a non-liturgical, sermon-based Sunday service.

But the Liturgy of the Word is so much more than a single person talking (At least, it ought to be). In terms of engaging children, Liturgical worship seems (to me) to be especially suited to the task. We stand we singe, we sit, we listen, we speak, we listen, we stand, we sing, we listen, we sing a bit more, we sit, we stand….

If readings were proclaimed with meaning and passion (as is done some places, and others not so much), if the music is engaging (which can happen in any style, as long as the congregation and musicians have a passion for what they are doing), if the processions are more than people ambling from one pace to the next, if prayers are prayed with solemnity and exuberance- if and when liturgy is living up to its fullest and best expressions, children (in my experience) find their place quite easily and naturally.

Bill Dilworth

But Adam, you make it sound as if parishes that do what I’ve described are consigning the kids to outer darkness. What goes on in Sunday School in those parishes is at least as much the Episcopal Church at work as what goes on in the Liturgy of the Word. It’s not “excluding” them – it’s giving them the opportunity to engage the Word in circumstances that allow that to happen, which I doubt that sitting through a sermon does for most grade-schoolers. Children aren’t simply miniature adults.

Adam Wood

The Episcopal Church has been struggling for a long time to include ALL of God’s people. Children are a part of that, or at least, they should be.

Bill Dilworth

Is it my imagination, Adam, or did you just consign every parish that doesn’t allow the kids to explore the Word in an age-appropriate setting and then join their parents at the Eucharist to the category of irrelevant and non-Gospel based? And while you were about that, you also seemed to project your own experience on the rest of the Church as something universal. Why is it so out of the question for some parishes, at least, to experience this arrangement as something other than awful? Why is your experience normative?

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