Thursday, February 24, 2011

That All May Freely Serve Webinar

Tonight I participated in a webinar hosted by Lisa Larges of That All May Freely Serve and our former moderator Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow. The webinar started by asking us participants where we think the church currently is, on a scale from 1 – 5, 1 being life support and 5 being freaking awesome. I gave it a 3. I do not currently think that the church is dying, however I know that there are many things that our denomination needs to work on. The second question was “On a scale of 1-5 (1 being low, 5 being high) how passionate are you about the Presbyterian church? 4 out of the 12 participants responded with a 5 and only 1 responded with a 1. I put a 5. I am passionate about the PCUSA and cannot see myself in any other denomination; I do however wish that there were more chances for me to show how passionate I am about the church. When asked “why do you think people remain dedicated or connected to the PC(USA) in the midst of this on going strife?” the most common response was “people love their local congregation”, followed by “have hope for the church”. My three responses to this question were 1) people love their local congregation, 2) believe in connectional church, and 3) have hope for the church.

Some of the interesting parts of the conversation focused on what we should put our energies into once the Amendment 10-A discussion are over. As Larissa said in the chat, “I wonder if we can even fathom putting our energy to something else?  And if we can, will we put energy behind the positive or something else we can disagree on?” Sometimes it is hard to live without opposition when it becomes a part of our daily lives. Most people said we should just wait and let the Holy Spirit guide us but I also feel that economic justice will be an aspect to look into. Many agree that we need to focus on church development and nurturing our leadership.

Then out conversation turned to the youth. Obviously as a youth this is of great importance to me and it is something I care a great deal about. Sometimes as a youth in the church it feels as if we often go overlooked. All too often it seems impossible to get involved with things because we lack the years of experience that those, decades older than us, possess. When there are so few youth in the church it is hard to make people take notice of us and make them listen to our ideas and hear what we truly care about. As I said in the chat, during the webinar, it is things like this, the ability to take part in a webinar with other members of the denomination, on a topic I care deeply about, and be taken seriously, even though I am a youth, that keeps me in love with our church. I love the Presbyterian Church (USA) and I appreciate all of he opportunities that I have been afforded thus far, I just hope that there will be a swing in the church, when our congregations realize the amount of youth we are losing, that will places a greater light on the youth and the role that we are more than capable of playing given the chance. Only in the PCUSA can people so far apart in age be considered young adults. One member of our webinar is the youngest at his presbytery meetings, and he’s forty. I thought I had it bad. Someone said that “young people just aren't feeling engaged by the church and many of them don't find it relevant to their lives”. It is a valid point. As a denomination we need to focus more on the youth, bringing youth into the church, and keeping youth in the church. We put too much stock in experience and do not provide youth the opportunity to gain the experience. As a youth in the church, things like this (the webinar) are what keep me passionate about our church.

Talking about youth in the church reminds me of the letter I wrote at the Synod of The NorthEast meeting back in October, which was distributed to the stated clerks of the presbyteries in our synod. 
Here is the letter:

Dear Presbytery Moderators and Stated Clerks,

My colleagues and myself are continuously told that we are the future of the church. I was under the impression that this was a good notion but more and more it seems that what you really mean by the future of the church it means “you are the future therefore I do not have to deal with you now.” I do not want to be a cynic so I hope that that is not what The Church has meant for all these years. And yet, you say we are the future of the church but you continue to deprive us of the opportunity to prove ourselves.

We are the future of the church so wouldn’t it be best to provide us the opportunity to begin to take on responsibilities now and gain experience now rather than to have us lead the church twenty years from now without any experience whatsoever? The synod is comprised of ministers and elders from different walks of life with very different experiences. Sounds like an environment that would be conducive to learning. It seems that synod would give us the experience that we so desperately need to learn.

The Synod assembly of 2009 had a total of 3 YADs. The Synod assembly of 2010 has a grand total of 1 YAD. This saddens me immensely! Last year was a learning experience for me. I met and learned form the Vice-Moderator of the General Assembly. I met and networked with pastors and elders from across the synod. I learned what a synod is and what it does and I learned how to moderate a meeting. I should not be the only Youth in the Synod that is provided the opportunity to have this experience.

Presbyteries need to make youth representation a priority. Presbyteries need to ask youth to come to Synod meetings. The Youth are the future of the church and we need a voice in the church. Furthermore I believe that the Youth of the church need to have a voice and representation on the Synod Council. If the future of the church is at all a priority action need to be taken now.

Yours In Christ,
Devin Berry

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