Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Answers to seven questions for people 19 to 35

A couple of weeks ago, I posted in this space seven questions for people between 19 and 35 years old. The questions were posed by Greg Rickel, the bishop of the Diocese of Olympia (Seattle). The answers that have come back to my email are fascinating and thought-provoking.

I've been compiling the responses, and today I am posting those that have come in so far. I have done no editing; I've deleted names, and mixed them up a bit (these are in no particular order). I will post more responses as they come in (send to

Perhaps the folks meeting today at the Episcopal Communicators conference in Memphis should read this, too. Please take your time with this:

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1. What are some of your interests?

I love reading (and writing about reading), playing video games, watching things on Netflix, cooking, spending time with friends and family, yoga, playing various musical instruments

Spending time with family and friends.

I'm interested in knitting, yoga, being outdoors biking/hiking/padling/climbing, reading, and teaching reluctant high school readers.

Playing World of Warcraft.

Roller derby, ice hockey; sports, in general (watching, not playing).

Reading theology, taking long walks with my husband, cooking, netflix-ing.

Food (eating, not preparing).

Being outside.

Equality of human beings -- for women; for sexual, racial, ethnic, and linguistic minorities; for immigrants and migrants; for the differently abled.

Politics, theology, church politics, etc.

Linguistics (don't get me started on this one--I'll talk your ear off ).

2. What do you do with your free time?

See the above.

Spend time with family and friends.

Do housework.

Play World of Warcraft.

Attend roller derby events.

What free time?! I'm a grad student! 
See above. Also, working with students at the church

I spend time with friends and my dog. I also play music in an Appalachian string band with my family.

Eat out.

Participate in the political process through voting, working as an election official, volunteering for political campaigns, contacting my elected representatives, etc.

Read, especially non-fiction these days.

3. To what extent do you consider yourself a spiritual person?

I don’t like to use the word spiritual to define people, in my experience it has been used to bludgeon people into practices with which they aren’t comfortable, or to confer “superiority” upon the person who identifies themselves as spiritual. I would instead define myself as religious or as faithful. 
I feel very spiritual. I care deeply about my faith and try to live my values through a life of service. This requires, for me, a constant prayer life and understanding that we are living in "Enemy-occupied territory" as C.S. Lewis says.

I consider myself to be quite spiritual, but in some ways I am uncomfortable with that term. I think "spiritual" is often, but not always, used by people who are afraid to use the word "religious." I do not only think about matters of faith as an academic exercise; rather, I mean that I think about how my religious beliefs inform my behavior. I think that my personal spiritual practice, in terms of prayer or bible study, is weak. I feel that my attempts to live in line with my religious beliefs, however, are strong and ever-growing.

Absolutely think of myself as a spiritual person. But I think I probably interpret that word differently to other people my age. I think everyone is spiritual. Whether they know it or not. Being spiritual is about being open to the world (and thus, to God) and finding out/co-creating who you are made to be. It is about integrity and the desire to grow.

4. Did you grow up in a religiously observant family?


No. My parents are both atheist/agnostic, and religion was, in fact, a subject of derision for my immediate family. Despite sharing those attitudes for most of my childhood, I was very spiritually curious and loved to attend temple with Jewish friends, church with Christian and Catholic friends (if I didn't think I was going to have conversion attempts hurled at me), and learn about the practice of friends who were of Wikkan or other non-Abrahamic traditions. Apparently my parents' lack of the "God gene" skipped me. I do have aunts, uncles, and cousins who are very religious/spiritual.

No. My Father went to a Methodist church and then became a Quaker but my Mum was an agnostic and we rarely talked about my Dad's faith.

I did grow up in a religiously observant family. I maintain daily devotions and Bible reading, yoga as a spiritual practice, church attendance, and mission through the Salvation Army ministry and knitting ministry at St. Paul's.

a. If so, what if any spiritual practices do you maintain?

Passover is my favorite holiday, hands down! If I do not celebrate Passover, it feels as if Spring has not arrived and I am not spiritually energized to engage the season of summer.

In terms of spirituality (as opposed to religious observance), I learnt from my parents to accept all people and never to assume that you know what it is like to be anyone else. I learnt that it is good to love people who other people find it hard to love. Both my parents still practice this and I admire it greatly in them.

I’ve stayed within the same denomination I was raised in; music remains fundamental to my experience of the divine. When we say grace before a meal (sadly, less often that I mean to), we use the same blessing from when I was a child (which comes from my mother’s Congregational and Baptist roots, rather than my father’s Episcopalian roots), and attending church together at Christmas and Easter remain important family events.

5. What makes you angry?

Injustice. Hypocrisy. Uniformity. Negativity. Especially when it shuts down other people's positivity.

This is a difficult question. There are so many potential answers, but I am learning that I do not find anger to be the most helpful response to things that upset me. The simplest answer is: what makes me angry is when people are not treated with respect and dignity. This includes everything from language and/or behavior that is racist/sexist/ageist/ableist/etc to humor that is founded in making fun of other people. This also applies to when we, as individuals and as groups, let our greed cause us to take advantage of other people. I am not inclined to believe strongly in huge, rapid shifts toward progress in these areas. On the contrary, I believe that real, long-term movement toward respectful and dignified treatment of all people results from individuals taking small actions. So, yes, I would like Dominion Virginia Power to invest in more sustainable fuel and use less coal, but, really, I'd rather my sister and everyone else in Virginia just turn out the damned lights when they leave a room.

Dishonestly, inconsiderate behavior, exclusionary or hateful beliefs or practices, thoughtlessness, injustice.

Injustice and inequality - especially among people marginalized based on their income level, gender, race, and sexual orientation.

6. Where do you find hope? 

In my students and in my friends who continue to fight for equity.

I find hope in the dignity of older people. I find hope in women who survive and thrive in dire circumstances. I find hope in knowing that I am connected to all people and that they are all connected to me. I find hope in knowing that I am small in comparison to the universe. My Christian faith is founded in the belief (relief!) that I am not God and, therefore, that I do not have to be perfect; this knowledge gives me the greatest hope.

In God, in my loved ones, in the lives of strangers and friends.

In the person of Jesus. In fearless theology. In the historical fact that things that seem impossible to change can change. In people- all around me, every day, all the time.

7. What advice would you give the Church today?

Live the Gospel. I do not mean this flippantly. 
Do not be afraid of the Bible (this goes especially for "liberal" or "progressive" churches).

The Church appears to struggle with what to make of individuals between the ages of “not high school” and “parent.” I don’t know if this is an issue with the way the Church structures its ministries around life-stages or not, but I feel that people at my stage of life (late-twenties, married but no children) aren’t attending church in large numbers in part because, when we arrive no one has a “box” to put us in, and therefore we’re left feeling a bit as if we aren’t wanted. When that happens, a lot of people simply stop going to church, or they become like me and stubbornly stick it out with different strategies – for example, even though I’ve been a parishioner for the past 6 years at the same church, I’ve been very active in Christian Education and a regular attendee of the large morning service, parishioners who I have seen every week for years still assume I must be new. In short, I would encourage the church to consider the ways it divides a congregation in order to minister more effectively, or rather, or re-evaluate if it is indeed living out its mission by doing so.

I would also add that even though I’m a young person in the church, I like organ music and traditional hymns. I’ve always found congregations that use “new” music to try to attract young people uncomfortable.

I think that personal connections are so important, especially for those who are beginning to establish households away from their immediate families. Please think of us when establishing groups, Bible studies, picture directories, and the like so may fully participate in church life.

People will know you by the love you have for one another. Don't judge success by numbers, but serve and love the community that is already with you.

Don't try to love people with services or committees or programs, but with genuine relationships.

Be yourself!

Treat "young people" as individuals who are inherently valuable--not because of what we can potentially contribute but because we have God's breath of life in us.

Do not assume that "young people" are entitled. I work a full-time job; keep a house; contribute at church; house my younger sister for minimal rent; pay taxes; vote; drive an old, unattractive and uncomfortable car; worry about supporting my parents and parents-in-law in the future; and much, much more. The only things I feel entitled to are dignity and respect.

Remember our names.

Fight the belief that any one young person can represent "us" as a group. The corollary to this is that the Church must make a conscious effort to include all of us in all aspects of church life, as each of us feels called.

Experiment with worship, but within the rich and varied traditions of Anglicanism. If we wanted all praise bands all the time, for example, we would find our way to another tradition.

1 comment:

Janice Dean said...

What does it say about us as a church that there are no comments on this post? What does it say about me and my expectations that I am extremely disappointed by this?