This weekend was the gathering of Episcopal young adults in Province VIII (which includes most of the southwestern U.S., Hawaii, Alaska and Taiwan). 2009 was Arizona's turn to host, and so we did.
The event went very well, overall. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and it was refreshing to spend time with amazing people.
A few of my reflections on ministry to young adults (18-35ish).
The younger you are in the Episcopal church, the more likely you are to enjoy traditional liturgy, not to mention theology. We accept LGBT rights and women's ordination as a given. Why should that affect our theology or practice? We were spared the social upheaval of the 60's and 70's. A surprisingly large majority of the folks I engaged with said they preferred, enjoyed, or were curious about high church liturgy. Fr. Craig's workshop on liturgy and subsequent thurible-training session were quite popular. Geoff at The Rose Maniple puts it best:
"I certainly know young Anglicans who are very keen on the Book of Alternative Services, and all kinds of doctrinal laxity. But most young Anglicans I know are not in this category. It may be true that most (though not all) of us are 'liberals' on the 'hot-button' issues of women in the priesthood, and same-sex partnerships. But we also take the Creeds seriously and hold firm to Nicene and Trinitarian orthodoxy. We have a high view of the sacraments, and believe in the Real Presence and apostolic succession. We're waiting for the Baby Boomers to kick the bucket so that we don't have to listen to them tell themselves how "inaccessible" we find the Book of Common Prayer. Then we can bury their tie-die stoles with them...."Alternative liturgies were used this weekend - liturgies which radically departed from the language used in the Book of Common Prayer. These services do NOT reflect the diversity of belief present in the Episcopal church! Furthermore, they are disinclusive and exclusionary. Worshipers like me cannot - in good conscience - participate. To give an example of "going the other direction," it would be as if the church wrote transubstantiation into its rubrics. It simply is not Anglican.
I don't mind low church services - I do mind non-BCP (non-Anglican) services.
Lastly, rejecting the BCP, using barfy crayon-colored stoles and/or not vesting properly sends a message to young adults: "You are not the Church. You need special liturgies, and special vestments. You are outside the realm of Common Prayer. Go sit at the children's Table." And people wonder why we don't have more young adults?
My parish, Trinity Cathedral, has seen a large surge in the number of people 20's and 30's attending. We are traditional in the Anglican sense - rabidly and unapologetically broad church. We don't put on a kitschy "special" show for young adults. We simply welcome them to join with others of all ages around the Altar. Last year's Provincial gathering ended in a traditional candlelight Mass, and nearly every evaluation sheet listed the candlelight Eucharist as that individual's favorite part of the weekend.
There is a Facebook group called, "Actually, Young People DO Like Traditional Liturgy." It currently has 2,276 members. Another group, "Praise Bands Annoy God," counts 3,734 members. The largest "general Episcopal" group has about 5,000.
There is definitely crossover.
Hm, I was going to write more, but seem to have forgotten. Guess that's what happens when one hops on a really good ranting session!