Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Please support diocesan funding for campus ministry

A core mission of St. Paul's Memorial Church is our ministry to the students of the University of Virginia. We have a vibrant Canterbury Fellowship and we've devoted a building entirely to that purpose along with the staff to support our students.

We receive a yearly subsidy from the Diocese of Virginia of $18,750 but spend considerably more than that on the upkeep of the Canterbury building and for staffing and programs. We also pay an assessment of $67,000 back to the diocese.

We will be doing student ministry no matter what. That is what we do and who we are.

I get frustrated, though, when I hear otherwise well-meaning people of my baby boomer generation say that we shouldn't spend much energy or money on ministry to young adults. The conversation usually goes something like this: "I left the Episcopal Church after high school and I came back in my 30s when I started having kids. It's natural. The teens now will do the same thing that we did."

Maybe. Maybe not. There's a couple problems with that.

First, the larger demographics: Fewer people in our country are going to church -- any church -- and only a tiny percentage are going to an Episcopal Church (maybe 1.5 percent if we squint). They aren't coming "back" to our church because they were never in our church in the first place. When they are in their 30s, they are likely gone for good or in someone else's church. If you are boomer, your experience is not likely to be repeated by a younger generation.

Second, and more disturbingly, by saying we shouldn't bother with young adults, we are saying they aren't important, that they have nothing to offer, that we don't need them, that the church is better off without them. Why would anyone come "back" to an institution with that attitude? We may not say that directly, but we say it in our attitudes, in our body language, and in our priorities reflected in parish and diocesan budgets.

Truthfully, we have a great deal to offer young adults and they have a great deal to offer us. We offer an experience of the Risen Christ without making people park their brain at the door. We are inclusive and open, and we don't insist that you must adhere to a strict doctrine to be with us. Bring your questions, bring your doubts, let's explore them together. We offer the depth of a long and rich liturgical tradition while inviting critical thinking and mature faith formation. We read books, we celebrate being with each other, and we practice contemplation and prayer.

In short, the Episcopal Church belongs on college campuses. We are a natural fit. For whatever reason, we may not have attracted this age group (or their parents) when they were young, but we get a chance with them when they go to college.

One chance, and that is probably it.

If we have any future as an Episcopal Church it will come from those young adults we cultivate as leaders from our college campuses. Put simply, we need them or we will die as a denomination -- and we will deserve to die as a denomination. If you care about nothing else, care about that.

A year ago, Bishop Shannon Johnston identified youth and young adult ministry as our top ministry priority in the Diocese of Virginia. He said we are doing "poorly" with young adults and we must do better. He is absolutely right.

Meanwhile, a series of "listening" meetings around the Diocese of Virginia a year ago also identified youth and young adult ministry as our top priority. Our people are absolutely right, they "get it."

Yet, the diocesan budget does not reflect that priority -- not by a mile.

Campus ministry only gets $135,000 out of an operating budget of $4.9 million, or a paltry 2.7 percent for what is supposed to be the "top" priority. The proposed budget for 2011 would cut the allocation for campus ministry by more than $4,000. The diocesan budget reflects a strategy for decline, not growth. It is going backwards, not forward.

It's time to reverse that and we need your support. We need it now, this week.

I have co-authored a resolution, BR-1, with The Rev. Laura Minnich Lockey, the campus missioner in Harrisionburg, that calls for doubling the amount we spend on campus ministry. Even if that funding were doubled, it would still reflect barely 6 percent of the diocesan budget for our supposedly "top" priority, and that is only a start for what we ought to be spending as a diocese for our future.

We need to do this while we still have the resources to do so. If we don't, we will wake up in ten years and wonder why we didn't, and we will have lost a generation.

The beauty of campus ministry is we get a big bang for the buck. We don't have to plant new churches, we don't have to build new buildings. The students are already on the campuses, and we have churches nearby. What we lack is the funding to pay for campus missioners, and guess what? Most of them are young and they are at the starting end of the salary scale. The students they reach will end up in your parish one day, and all you need to do is welcome them and get out of their way as they bring new energy and new ideas to ministry.

If you are a voting member of the Diocese of Virginia Council, I invite your support. And if you are a member of a parish in the Diocese of Virginia, please urge your delegates to support this measure.

Below is the resolution with background:
BR-1: Diocesan Financial Support for Campus Ministry
Resolved, that the 216th Council of the Diocese of Virginia fully supports Bishop Shannon Johnston’s top priority of supporting young adult formation especially on college and university campuses, as outlined in his pastoral address at the 215th Council of the Diocese of Virginia; and be it further

Resolved, that this Council requests that the diocesan budget for campus ministry be doubled from $135,000 to $270,000 in the 2011 budget year; and be it further

Resolved, that the additional funds for campus ministry would come from “Support of Our Greater Church Community” (Category A in the proposed 2011 budget); and be it further

Resolved, that the appropriate diocesan authorities determine how to allocate this additional campus ministry funding to take advantage of our many and abundant opportunities for young adult formation on our college and university campuses in our diocese.

Submitted by the Rev. James Richardson, Rector, St. Paul’s Memorial Church and Chaplain at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville; The Rev. Laura Minnich Lockey, Campus Missioner, Harrisonburg
Endorsed by the Vestry of St. Paul’s Memorial Church, Charlottesville

Background: In his pastoral address last year, Bishop Shannon Johnston declared that his top priority for ministry is youth and young adult formation in our diocese. He mentioned that we have generously supported Shrine Mont and other youth programs, but then noted:
“As well as we do for our youth, we do so relatively little (and dare I say “poorly?”) for young adults. With some notable exceptions, a great many of our churches are almost entirely lacking in ‘twenty- somethings.’ I believe that this is a critical shortcoming, not just for ministry opportunities today but also in leadership development for tomorrow in each and every one of our congregations.”

Bishop Johnston also noted in his address that youth and young adult formation was the top priority listed during a series of listening meetings in the diocese a year ago.

Yet our diocesan budget does not come close to reflecting this as our top priority for ministry. In the diocesan budget of 2010, totaling $4.885 million, barely 2.7 percent was devoted to developing young adult membership and leadership through campus ministry.

And, in fact, the proposed diocesan budget for 2011 would reduce those funds for campus ministry by $4,272.

Our greatest opportunity for young adult formation and developing young adult leadership is on our college and university campuses. We have many such opportunities in our diocese by being richly blessed with numerous leading institutions of higher education.

The 2010 budget for campus ministry in our diocese was $135,000, and was allocated thusly:

James Madison University $90,100
University of Virginia $18,750
Virginia Commonwealth University $12,650
Mary Washington, Canterbury $10,000
NOVA College Ministries (George Mason University) $3,000
Mary Washington, CCC $500

The diocesan budget supports only one full-time campus chaplain, in Harrisonburg serving students at James Madison University, Bridgewater College and Eastern Mennonite University. Our other existing campus ministries are badly under-funded by the Diocese, and are often subsidized by local congregations (which are not credited for such subsidies on their diocesan assessment). No diocesan financial support is given for ministry at the University of Richmond, Randolph Macon University and several other colleges and universities in our diocese. Ministry at the University of Richmond has been supported off-and-on entirely by a single parish, St. Stephen’s, Richmond.

The Episcopal Church benefits enormously from campus ministries because the students we reach go forth from their campuses to join and become leaders in congregations and missions all over the country and the world. The support of campus ministries is crucial for creating a growing and vibrant Church everywhere. Yet our proposed diocesan budget represents going backwards, not forward.

If our diocese seriously believes that we need young adults in our congregations then we need to significantly increase our funding for campus ministry. This resolution calls for a doubling of the total budget for campus ministry, with the appropriate diocesan authorities determining how it should be allocated.

We have also indicated where we believe these funds can be found in the diocesan budget by designating Category A, which has $847,874 designated for “Support of Our Greater Church Community” in the proposed 2011 budget. We have indicated transferring funds from Category A to campus ministry, complying with Rule 5D of the Council for submission of resolutions. But the authors of this resolution are open to better suggestions.


Janice Dean said...

Thank you, Jim and Laura!! I came to The Episcopal Church through St. Paul's Canterbury campus ministry; in fact, I was both baptized and confirmed at St. Paul's. I did not grow up in a religious family, but the "God gene" that seemed to miss my parents and sister certainly did not miss me. St. Paul's Episcopal Church, through Canterbury, was a place for me to learn about Christianity, ask those hard questions (and sometimes some really dumb questions, too), make wonderful friends, deepen my spiritual relationship with the man who is now my husband, get two decent meals a week, and have a safe space to be in fellowship with other young adults who were trying to walk in faith. Thanks in large part to my experience in Canterbury, I think I will be a leader in church wherever I go in life, and I hope it will always be in an Episcopal Church.

Mary Carolyn said...

I'm so glad the Diocese of South Florida (at that time) did not put the young adults at the bottom of the totem pole, financially. I might never have discovered the Episcopal Church! When I attended my first Eucharist, I knew I had found my home on earth. PTL!