Thursday, June 4, 2009

No young people in church, eh?

Every three years, the Episcopal Church, in its infinite wisdom, elects a bunch of people who are in the right place at the right time and have the right connections to go to a thing called "General Convention". While some delegates are awesome (like my friend and classmate who rocks), some have been delegates to convention since before I was born, it seems. Since I'm nosy, I like to follow their mail list as a kibitzer, the non-delegates who watch all.

Recently, a discussion started about the dearth of young people in the church. A younger priest (by this, I mean under 40) responded that perhaps this was related to the dearth of younger clergy. This turned into a discussion of the Process.

Now, on a personal level (and why I'm posting this part on my blog and not the Diocesean blog!), I think that CT's process is long and grueling. I had to take extra exams and go home for what seemed like infinite committees. I felt grilled to the core. After the enlightening experience of the firey week of hell that was GOEs, I had to go home for further talks with the Diocese. (To this day, I thank God for Marge M-A at VTS who leapt to my defense and saved me with phone calls from professors to assure my Bishop that I was NOT actually a heretic or an idiot.) Yeah, the process is grueling. But now that I'm a few years on, I recognize that it was invaluable formation, and I don't think I would have traded most of it.

No, the problem in my priestly life came after the second ordination. Perhaps I should have realized something was amiss when we had to call the fire department the day before the event to put out a fire in the church. Ever since, it seems I've been on an uphill fight. I have not had the lucky chances of fate, connections, or calls that my peers have had. I haven't gottn to go to work in a cool Cathedral, or transistion easily from job to job. I've landed in a place where my parishoners are slowly coming to accept me, but where I certainly felt the scathing glares from my more elderly congregants. I'd suggest crazy new ideas, and be fought down. I've been reminded constantly that I could be their granddaughter.

Meanwhile, certain colleagues shut me out of a controversial, but I believe essential stand towards ensuring we can provide equal measures for all couples- gay or straight- because they wanted to protect me. I was then furious, and remain irritated, that even at the age of 29 and 30, my elders treate me as a child, and refuse to allow me to take responsibility for my own actions. yes, I know that getting involved in that movement will mean certain churches won't want to hire me and that I'll get angry email and that many people are not as liberal as I am. But I believe it's the right thing for our church and our faith and our culture, and I'm grown up enough to stand up for what I believe in.

Trust me, when you treat grown adults like way ward children, yes, we get tired of it. And yes, many of my age peers have left the church.

Trust us to take on the mantle of leadership and risk. See what happens then!


Scott Hankins said...

OT: As chief rabble-rouser at our last convention and in response to your post at HOBD via C.H., i would like to know who stiff-armed you at the convention so that i can read them the riot act. Contact me at

Crescens said...

Dear Mother Betsy

Come on!

A 30-year-old Episcopal priest who addresses a letter to "Rev. Holt" on the HDoB list? Even at Virginia, they must have taught you that Episcopal clergy are addressed as "Father", "Mister", "Doctor", "Canon", "Dean" or "Bishop" --- NEVER "Rev."

Maybe it is YOU who are "out of the mainstream".

keaneakao said...

I really think your frustrations over General Convention and that fact that you have not been elected a deputy (the proper term) should really be turned to strengthening your knowledge of the over all polity of the church. I would also recommend that you submit your name for a Committee, Commission, Agency or Board of the church through the General Convention Office. Just suggestions...

The Vagabond Priest said...

Interesting comments, guys- I am always amused by the grammar of clergy formal address. We could round and round on the grammar forever, though when given the opportunity, I'll just take plain "Betsy".

I find the suggestion of submitting my name the General Convention Office interesting- through whom? For what? In what manner? There's so many questions that are so simple to those who grew up in this culture. I find myself feeling like I'm learning a new computer system.