The Little Generation that Could

by Anna Olson on April 27, 2016

Remember Generation X

If you Google us, here’s what you may get as the first response:

Gen·er·a·tion X
1. The generation born after that of the baby boomers (roughly from the early 1960s to mid 1970s), often perceived to be disaffected and directionless.

For a hot minute, we were all the rage. People were getting a little tired of the Baby Boomers, and their monstrously large generation of offspring had not yet come of age. Then we kind of...disappeared.

I heard that the millennials had recently (2015) become the largest generation in the US workforce. I went to Google to find out when they had surpassed us. Turns out it was the Baby Boomers they surpassed. Gen X’s great moment in the workforce sun was a distant second place.

I was born at the height of the baby bust, right smack in the middle of Gen X. We claim President Obama as our most famous member. He may have been born right at the tail end of the Baby Boom by some definitions, but that “Bucket List” speech? Only a true Gen-Xer would have come up with that (or thought it was that funny!).

For all our smallness, Gen X is moving into our prime leadership years in the church, which as always is slightly behind the rest of the world. A seminary friend commented on the proximity of our 50th birthdays, just five years off in my case. She said, “I guess there is very little we can say we aren't old or experienced enough for anymore.”

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There's No "i" in Team

by Richelle Thompson on April 26, 2016

There’s no "i" in team.

But I sort of expected there was one in leader. As I have risen in my career and in leadership positions at my church, I confess that there has been a lot of “i” in my expression as leader. All of those personality inventories (even the fake Facebook ones) reveal that I value praise and reward for a job well done. That I’m motivated, in part, by the possibility of atta girls. And to be honest, I didn’t really need a personality inventory to know that. I’m an oldest child who spent years as an earnest people pleaser, and though I have mellowed, some of those traits are deeply (genetically?) engrained.

But wisdom (coupled with hard-learned lessons and frankly, age) is helping me to re-evaluate the characteristics of a true leader. For me, perhaps the biggest shift is truly embracing the value of the team. In my work with Forward Movement and in my participation at my church, I increasingly experience the strength and promise of teamwork. Our congregation hosts an annual fundraiser, and I volunteered again to head up the raffle component. But a big part of the work fell when I was traveling, so I had to count on the team. And they were amazing! I needn’t have worried, and although I felt badly for not being able to participate while I was away, the team did a yeoman’s job of preparing the raffle items. They were a model of the promise and possibility of teamwork.

The shift from I to we has been subtle but some signs are more obvious than others. This spring, I prepared the editorial report for the board, and instead of signing my name as I had in past years, I put the entire team. It just felt like the right thing to do. The work we complete together is a true composite of the gifts from each team member.

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1 Church, 4 Locations

by Linda Buskirk on April 25, 2016

The far corner of northwest Indiana is a collection of cities and towns at the edge of greater Chicago. Through decades of multiplying suburban communities, Episcopal parishes were established throughout this region. As steel mills closed in a changing economy, many congregations wondered, and still wonder, how long they can sustain their ministries.

In 2010, three such parishes found themselves about to be without rectors due to one priest retiring and two being called to other churches. Bishop of Northern Indiana Edward S. Little invited the congregations into “dialogue and discernment” about their future since none of the churches was likely capable of affording its own priest.

“After much discussion and numerous meetings, a new vision began to emerge: one church in three locations. This is not a merging or yoking of parishes, this is a new way in our times of being Church. This vision is very much like the early Church that we hear about in the Acts of the Apostles and Paul's Letters. Each town may have had several house Churches but together they formed one Church in various locations.” - From 

The “one church in three locations” became the Calumet Episcopal Ministry Partnership (CEMP). Later, a fourth congregation joined the partnership, so it now includes St. Barnabas in Gary, St. Paul in Munster, St. Timothy’s in Griffith, and St. Christopher’s in Crown Point.

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The Kindness of Strangers

by Richelle Thompson on April 22, 2016

Blanche Dubois might always depend on the kindness of strangers, but I am inspired by their faithfulness.

In an airport lounge, I took a seat next to an older couple. The man wore a clergy collar, so I asked if he was Episcopalian. For the next half hour, we talked about vocation. He started the conversation with a quote from Mark Twain: The two most important days in your life are the day you’re born – and the day you discover why you were born. For him, the second day was when he decided he had a call to the priesthood.

Ordained for more than sixty years, he told me about his ministry with the Cherokees and his father's experience of being mentored by David Oakerhater, a saint on the Episcopal calendar. Oakerhater’s legacy – and that of Harriet Bedell, another Episcopal saint, propelled him to compassion and commitment. Since retirement, he said he has served in more than fifty congregations, filling in between priests or serving in small congregations. He shared about receiving a call for a two-month gig at a Mandarin congregation on the West Coast. It turned into six years of service, and even though the church no longer meets, he is that community’s pastor, baptizing, marrying, and burying his flock.

Let me show you some of them, he said. And he reached into his suit jacket. I expected a cell phone (How else do we share pictures today), but he pulled out a stack of photographs held together with a paper clip. Here was a wedding. A baptism. A young Asian boy looking into the eyes of this elderly Caucasian man. That, he said, is my godson.

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Worship Committee?

by Greg Syler on April 21, 2016

At St. George’s, we have a worship committee. Actually, it’s in our by-laws, so I suppose it’s a capital ‘W’ – Worship Committee. Perhaps that’s not so strange, considering all the various things we’ve turned into committees over these many years – we have been very busy perfecting the fool-proof institution called church.

For the most part, however, it’s a committee that never meets, at least not consistently with an eye toward some goal or focus. They’ve met sporadically, here and there, and I’ve even called for meetings in the past when I’ve had something I needed to wonder about, aloud. While we were going through the early stages of transition in our music ministry, I asked the vestry to endorse a broadly representative group I helped assembled. Together with them, we came up with the name ‘Music & Arts Exploratory Group,’ intentionally avoiding the word ‘committee’ because a ‘group’, as such, can do its work well and with intentionality and then, in its own time, disband organically.

If for nothing else, I’m troubled by having something encoded in our by-laws, something established in our (allegedly) common self-understanding that we simply don’t do. Why have a worship committee at all?

To show my true colors, here, it’s my view that the Canons of the Episcopal Church don’t envision anything resembling worship committees. Worship is the very lifeblood of who we are as Christian people and, more so, the church is careful in passing along the deposit of faith. Local variants always exist, of course, and always have existed, but the Canons don’t seem to grant equal measure to those particular expressions. To that end, the Canons are expressly clear about who has oversight of worship and music: in music, it’s the “Member of the Clergy” (who “shall seek assistance from persons skilled in music”), Canon II.5*; for worship life, in general, it’s “Rectors and Priests-in-Charge, …subject to the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer,” Canon III.9.6(a)(1)** In order to uphold what we believe is distinct and life-giving about the mission of the Body of Christ, namely that we exist, first, to offer “our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” to God, there must be sound doctrine and, on that basis, clearly articulated practices of worship. This is not a matter for the local congregation; this is the mission of the church universal.

That said, however, (and before I get accused of sounding like my interest is in preserving the hierarchy!) I believe that the church is encouraging all of us to get quickly beyond questions of power and decision making authority and, instead, focus on what we should be doing on the local level, in each of our congregations and communities of faith. If we can’t, ultimately, re-write Eucharistic prayers and come up with our own orders of worship, we should be regularly reflecting upon how and in what ways our worship life makes us more engaged, more thoughtful, more justice-oriented, more receptive, more curious women and men; more like disciples of Jesus, and less like curators of this precious institution. Together in our congregations and communities of faith we should be digging more deeply into our walk with Jesus, and how we are trying and succeeding and, sometimes, trying and failing to be disciples of Jesus. Removing the question of who decides what about worship frees us up to do this vastly more important work.

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