"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Tuesday, April 13, 2004 OK, before I get to some more serious stuff ... a couple things I just have to comment on:
*I have been duped by Ryan Wallace! I completely bought that the blog that purported to be Rory's blog was actually written by Rory, instead of Ryan pretending to be Rory until she got too bored to do it (and then sent me a comment saying that Rory's blog had "inexplicably disappeared" ... thus continuing the deception). Alas, unlike Ryan, I have no "list" to put her on as a sign of my displeasure. So, I'll merely remove what I thought was Rory's link from my blog and go on with life. (BTW, you might have noticed Nicole's now-active blog added to the ECM blogger list on your right ... if Nicole is lying to me, I GIVE UP!!!)
*The Nick and Jessica Variety Hour -- When I saw the first ad for this, I thought I must have been watching an SNL skit or something. Of all the genres to resurrect, they went with the variety shows of the 1970s??? And then with Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson. The only possible explanation is that in some network meeting somewhere, a group of executives, stoned out of their minds said "Hey, you know what would be cool? Let's bring back the Donny and Marie show ... except let's make Donny more beefcakey and insipid and shave about 87 points off Marie's IQ and pump up her boobs about 5 cup sizes.") I read in the paper today that this ridiculous show WON ITS TIME SLOT ON SUNDAY NIGHT!!! I guess P.T. Barnum was right ... nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
Now that that's off my chest...
I've been thinking a lot about the Episcopal Church and all its efforts to attract younger people/raise up younger leaders. And the more I think about it and look at what's going on, I feel like we're just not getting it right.
What's wrong is the parish model. It's not that it's completely failing ... but that's part of the problem. If it were completely failing, it would be obvious that we need to do something different and we would be trying new things. But it's just surviving enough ... and enough younger people are cut out for something resembling the traditional parish model that we think that it's just about tweaking existing churches. But that ignores the throngs of people who are staying away from our parish churches and want nothing to do with them.
Don't get me wrong ... I think parishes can be great and I certainly admire clergy who can really do parish ministry well. But I know that, with very few exceptions, when I think about going into parish ministry it makes me feel loike someone is putting a pillow over my face! That may just all be about me, but at least part of it is what I hear from my colleagues who are in parish ministry and that is how difficult it is to do almost anything new and creative.
I also have to ask myself about all the ECM folks -- not the ones who have gone off to seminary, but the others -- who have left ECM after what they have described as a great experience of Christian community and are not attached to any Christian community right now. Not because they don't want it -- they long for what they had at ECM -- but because they can't find anyplace that provides that.
Sam Portaro (U. of Chicago) told me once that you have to have your campus ministry connected to a parish so that students could experience parish life because if you didn't, they'd never be able to assimilate into parishes when they got out of school. Now, Sam has forgotten more about campus ministry then I'll probably ever know ... and maybe what he says its true ... but I think that's a backwards way to look at it. Why should we train people to get used to something that they wouldn't normally want to be a part of instead of wondering if there is something different we should be doing with folks after they graduate from college.
We've got a HUGE group of seniors this year ... and I am concerned that when they all leave they won't so much drift away from the church as the church will drift away from them. I'm grateful to Tina Grant for being the point person to set up a post-ECM group for those staying in St. Louis. We need to keep trying more things like that. More things like the "beatnik group" that Emily Peach, Beth Scriven, Kristian Kaufmann and others are involved in that is just meeting once a month with no concept of orthodoxy to discuss spiritual ideas.
I got something in the mail this week from a new effort in the Episcopal Church called the Pastoral Leadership Search Effort (PLSE). I'm really grateful to the people who have been working hard on this because we really, really need a coordinated effort around attracting young vocations. But even though there wasn't anything I could point to as being wrong about it, it just didn't seem right. If, using the acronym, this was about the Episcopal Church having a PuLSE, I'm not sure it looks like we've got one. It just looks like the same old stuff dressed up in hipper clothes.
ECM isn't anywhere close to perfect. And there are definitely aspects to our community that couldn't be reproduced in a non-campus setting because they are age-appropriate and student-lifestyle specific. But I think we've got something going on here. And frankly, I'm tired of the expectations that we are supposed to be training students to be good little Episcopalians who will fit nicely into parish models. I'm tired of getting the feeling from my clergy colleagues that campus ministry is good and important but "not a real job" (mainly, I suspect, because I don't complain as much about my job as they do about theirs). I'm tired of having students I love leave ECM and find no home for them.
So my sabbatical has helped me recognize why I am tired. It's also given me the desire really to try to do something about it. So what do you all think? Am I right or am I off base or both? What do you think? What can be done? For those of you who are post-college or about to be ... what can we start?
| Mike at 4/13/2004 09:53:00 PM
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