I hear on the news that the Anglican Church may not survive and the sad thing is as a 56 year old Anglican I agree. It makes me so angry because they just can’t see what’s wrong, they are so narrow they just don’t get it and it will cost them the church which is a shame because it is a good denomination founded on the right thing. So why am I so riled up.?
Well the first thing I did after hearing the news I turned to my daily readings in Forward Day by Day. Feeling lazy I was just going to read the Gospel but when I finished I felt such a need to spend a minute in the Psalms. The daily reading was Psalm 78 and it smacked me in the face. Psalm 78:5-8 “ He established a decree in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children; that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children, so they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; And that they should not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.” And I said yes, this is the key, what I have always known and tried to get across but most of us don’t. Our elders and yes, the rest of us have been so busy either forcing our kind of worship on our kids or worse just letting them decide. We are so busy arguing the semantics of same sex unions and other politically correct issues that we have completely missed the point. Really, it is no longer politically correct to say Merry Christmas on a continent founded on Christian values.
I was raised in a very small town Anglican Church. There were 2 of us my age but they still managed to provide Sunday school. My parents were faithful attenders but were very stuck in the tradition of the church. God chose (I say God because I don’t think it was really any conscious decision on my parents part) to give me the opportunity to attend a local United Church camp. It was there I first really met God, up on a windswept hill overlooking the South Saskatchewan River during Vesper services. Oh how I treasure the memories of peace and love that I first felt there. That is a feeling I have fortunately being able to find again many times often at camp.
The other significant event as a teenager of about thirteen was a chance opportunity to attend a youth retreat weekend in the neighboring town of Rosetown. I often wonder who it was that thought that that little church could host that weekend and was kind enough to invite the two of us from Outlook but it really changed my life. It wasn’t the Saturday sessions, or the people who billeted me (I remember being terrified to stay with strangers) but it was the Sunday folk mass they did with guitars. It was such a revelation to me that church could be fun and not so boring, the music current and so great that it sustained me for many years and set me up to be an advocate for change in my church and for the youth. Believe me it has been a long and uphill struggle.
Fortunately as I raised my three children I attended a Church that was blessed with some very Charismatic priests and some open minded people. Some. We still had the people who didn’t like any new music, still fought to reinstate the old prayer book and didn’t think you should have much of a say in the running of the church unless you were older. Oh it was OK for the kids to have a Sunday school pageant or sing a little song but not fully participate. There were some of us that fought that. Personally I realized that even though we were trying, I knew my kids needed more. First they needed a peer group they could share their faith with so they attended whatever youth group that was being run that year and they were able to learn from, share and gain an appreciation for other denominations. They went every year to camp and YC in Edmonton as well as attending youth events in Calgary and they made friends around the province, and yes that meant two to three hours on the road each way. They came to church every Sunday. We made a priority of Sundays so they never had activities that happened on Sunday and so yes, horror of horror, no hockey. We never asked them if they wanted to go to camp, they just went and they so loved it. In fact they have all worked many summers at camp as councillors, each one has given up summer jobs to work a full summer and our youngest attended college for Youth Leadership and now lives and works full time as a Camp director in BC at a Camp and Retreat Centre that sees 1200 kids each summer. Oh yes, I have spent eight years at camp as counsellor and director as well and I waited until my kids were big to do it so it is not too late to make a difference. And believe me those kids I have had the pleasure to work with have made a difference in my life.
So let’s get back to what I see as the solution to the problem. If you have stuck with me this far you will know I clearly see the youth as key. I actually talked once to a lady at a Calgary church who told me they would support camp but they had no children at her church. That really made me sad to know there was no one at that church that had children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews or even friends or neighbors with kids. How very sad to live in a childless world. OK, your right there must have been some children but the point is she saw no responsibility to any of them. My question is why was her church not sponsoring the cost of camp to some child? Or not helping support the cost of hiring a youth minister to attract kids to her church. Maybe she was one of those old biddies that didn’t like the “New” music or the book of alternative services, so caught up in keeping things the same she couldn’t see her church dying around her. I think it is so sad that people who have served in the Anglican Church for 80 years have to be buried at another church because theirs has folded. It happened to my Mom.
Look around people at some of these churches that are growing. Go spend a Sunday with them and get caught up in the worship. Stop finding fault and listen to what is being said. Maybe they are “just” churches of the “Word”, yes us Anglicans can get rather pompous thinking it has to be a liturgical service to be fully “Holy”, but these are people who take their faith just as seriously as us. And they support their youth, they find the money to hire youth leaders and send kids to camp. They don’t ask their kids if they want to attend camp, they send them, they encourage it from the pulpit and they make it a great place to go. They have college and young couples’s bible studies and floor hockey drop in at their churches. Kids are desperately looking for something to make their lives meaningful and we are so busy worrying about how they feel and making them popular we are being negligent in our responsibilities as Christian parents and leaders. It is time to set aside our comfortable ways of doing things and to start making sacrifices for our children. The Anglican Church is dying because it has ceased to care about and be relevant to our kids. Oh we talk a good talk, set up task forces and the odd conference but what has your parish church done lately to really further the kingdom. What have you done to keep your youth at your church?
I once went to a youth gathering and was told by a youth leader that they didn’t send kids to the Diocesan Camp because too many Essentials people worked the camp and they were afraid of what the kids were learning. If you don’t see what’s wrong with that then you need to think a little longer. In Alberta there is no physical Camp that the Anglican Church owns. The Calgary Camp died not because of funds but because not enough Anglicans thought it was important enough to support by sending their kids. I ran eight Alpha Courses and saw many people find Jesus. Did they come to our Anglican Church? No because there were just too many politics going on in the greater church. Sadly my little church also closed because it was just too hard to fight the losing battle. I currently attend an Evangelical church where they have young people. Sometime if I ever live near a city I will seek out that loud Worship band that I fell in love with so many years ago and I will really know I’ve come home.
So here I am an Anglican without an Anglican home ranting at anyone who will listen. I am getting older but my passion for change in my church has not changed, time is just getting short for us all. It is time to quit talking and looking for agreement and to start doing something. Start living boldly for Christ and start doing something. Anything. What are you doing to further the Kingdom ?