Millennials and the Church
A Young Person in a Young Church
I am 31-year-old young adult from Colombia and a transitional deacon, called to live and serve in diversity. When I came to the Episcopal Church by the pure grace of God and to visit a friend at her workplace, I imagined it simply as a member of the Anglican Communion and nothing more. With the passage of time, and thanks to the different calls I have received from God through it, I must say that the Episcopal Church is more than I imagined. It is a community of faith and prayer, where despite geographical distances, we are a single broad, diverse body. That body speaks different languages, has many cultural manifestations and often different ways of thinking and worshiping. But in spite of that, our church encourages and helps us follow Jesus together, because “Love is the way.”
A diocese that encourages people to dream and try new things
The Diocese of Colombia, where God called me to ordained ministry, is not one of the largest dioceses in the Episcopal Church, but it is a place where God has called people with many talents, virtues and a desire to help others. As a young person, this was fundamental, because it allowed me to see that this is not a Church of formulas, where the task of announcing God’s love is written and fixed. Rather, it is a one that allows us to explore paths, to think new ways of being Church, to have dreams and crazy ideas for inviting others to believe in Jesus.
I have also learned from my context that in matters of evangelizing we should not worry about the lack of resources. We should worry about lacking the desire to do things. A few people with limited resources can do much, if we put forth effort and work together. An example of this is the youth event that we were able to carry out some years ago with the leadership of Bishop Duque, our diocesan bishop, and the Rev. Diego Sabogal. Despite limitations, we had young people from Bogotá, Cali, Cartagena, Malambo, Medellin and other congregations from around the country. Because the Episcopal Church allows us to dream without limits and to try new things, I am encouraged to be a part of it.
If social media is a window on the world, the Church should be there also
One of the things I have been most passionate about as a young adult was caused by a personal experience. Towards the year 2009, in the middle of a personal crisis, Facebook became my window to the world and together with Messenger, the only way to socialize. The Church, however, was seldom seen on social networks, and I questioned this. Surely, I was not the only person going through a difficult moment in my life and needing someone to talk with to help me accept who I am.
When I joined the Church, and began supporting the work of Hispanic Ministry, I was deeply interested in seeing how the Church moved in social media, how it was becoming visible, letting its voice be heard and listening to others. It filled me with joy and inspired me to commit to the exercise of evangelization through social media in support of the life of the Church. When young people see our social media presence today, they find a Church that welcomes, accepts and supports them, allowing them to be who they are. They can feel that we are their Church, and come to love her with all their soul, as I do.
Young people are the Church’s present
The progress made in changing the traditional claim from young people are the future of the Church, to young people are the Church’s present, is important to me. The Church becomes young when we are not afraid to make room for young people, to listen to their words, use their ideas and let them be who they are. Through Episcopal Youth Events (EYE and now EJE) the Church listens to young people. It approaches us, lets us know that we are the Church and that the rest of this branch of the Body of Jesus loves, accepts and needs us. Other parts of the Church — including the Presiding Bishop’s staff and its legislative body — are also interested in hearing our voices. They want to help renew the Episcopal Church, drawing on the strength of its growing numbers of young people.
I identify with the ministry of many bishops, beginning with Presiding Bishop Curry, who comes close to us not only through words but in actions like attending meetings and listening to us. They take selfies with us, encourage us and recognize what we do for the Church and the passion we bring to our ministry and service. The Episcopal Church allows young people to be young and has helped me discover where I feel called to serve.
Ordained ministers are not only in the office, waiting for the faithful — they are on public transport talking to people, in the street administering “ashes to go.” They are in the supermarket with people in their daily life, in the hospital with those who suffer and with children in schools. They are networking with other organizations, committed to transforming the world and willing to march to defend justice and peace. The Episcopal Church shows me many ways to exercise ministry and allows me to dream and work so that many more may know Jesus, may pray, worship and respond to his call as diverse beings who believe that he is love, that he is the Way.
The Rev. Nelson Serrano was ordained as a transitional deacon in the Episcopal Church in Colombia in 2015. He currently serves as a cleric at the Cathedral of San Pablo in Bogotá and supports some programs of the Office of Hispanic / Latino Ministries. In 2018 he graduated as a Psychologist from the National University of Colombia and in 2019 earned a Master of Arts in Religion at Trinity School for Ministry.
- Come As You Are by Lucy Cabrera Montes, Vestry Papers, May 2015
- Feeling Valued by Ariana Gonzales-Bonillas, Vestry Papers, January 2014
- Young People—Not Merely the Churches Future by Vanessa Riutta, ECF Vital Practices blog , November 15, 2013
- God, It’s Your Church by Alfredo Feregrino, Vestry Papers, November 2016