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it is good to be back

May and into June was a busy time for me, thankfully now I have a few weeks in ABQ before I head out again. I suppose I should do some Annual Conference debriefing, hopefully so I'm not upset about it anymore.

Overall, I had a good time. I got home on Wednesday night late and Jodie picked me up at my house to head to Champaign. We picked up Nick from New Horizon and we were on our way. I had some awesome pizza, got a chance to see my favorite Wesley Church & Foundation staff, visited Ruth at work, at which point we needed to head to conference. Off we went to Peoria for 3 days of very little sleep and just a little bit of business. We got there just in time for worship where Jodie had to read a prayer and definitely sat next to the Bishop during the whole service. I think that the "Poke the Bishop" game that I linked to earlier came from that event, but we always try to have interesting interactions with the Bishop. We went and grabbed some food afterwards at Steak n Shake (a midwest love of mine). We began all of our theological discussion there, I think that might have all started with seeing a guy that was wearing a shirt that said on the front "Calvinism: This shirt chose me" and on the back it said "Armenianism: I chose this shirt". I thought it was clever. We didn't really talk about those subjects because we're all good UMs but it was quality.

Thursday was more of the same but we really got into some of the resolutions and found other ways to entertain ourselves. One was that there was a giant ladder up front, that really led to nowhere. Later we figured out that they were using it to take photos, but not until after we hung a sign on it that said "Jacob's Ladder" that stayed up the rest of the weekend. So maybe we do random things during conference but you can't say we didn't have fun. We went mini golfing Friday night, and out to my campus minister's parents house Sat afternoon. It was really great to spend time with my friends, and I really did benefit from seeing some of my pastor friends and others because I really feel valued in the presence of those that have seen me grow up. There were some pastors there that knew me when I was 15 and we're 8.5 years past that point. People were really excited about what I'm doing, and can't wait to have me back in Illinois. It is good to feel loved.

Sunday was the day that left a terrible taste in my mouth. After ordination, which I love but was FAR too long this year, we had discussion over the budget. I got up on the conference floor and asked a question about the $110,000 being cut from colleges and campus ministries. Simply speaking, I asked if there were other provisions made for young adult ministries when that is being cut. The answer I got made me angry. Basically, the response of the CCFA chair was to suggest that maybe we as young people should stop complaining about ministry cuts and get out and join the community. It became glaringly clear to me in that moment that IGRC is trying its best to remove itself from the hole it has dug itself (we've lost 40% of our members since 1974). But I don't think the approach is the best one. Instead of increasing what we give to ministries to help them thrive, we cut them to save more to use in the overhead of administration. I'm not saying we don't need that administration, I just think that cutting ministry is like shooting ourselves in the foot.

The median age of a person in Illinois is slightly under 35 and yet we cut ministries to those under 35? That just doesn't make sense to me. I guarantee that the median age in our churches is probably closer to 60 than it is to 35. I heard a statistic that in 10 years half of our clergy will retire and in 20 it will be more like 75%. In a conference that brings in about 15 clergy a year and there are about 1000 pastors, you can see that the math doesn't add up. The cynic in me says that it will all be fine because the rapid church decline will meet or exceed that rate of loss. This is completely and totally painful because there is a hint of truth in it.

I am discouraged by the constant degrading manner in which young adults are treated in our churches. I am out in my community, which is probably part of the reason that my church home in Albuquerque is not United Methodist. Young adults were called "kids" on the conference floor, and if that is the attitude of people in our congregations, no wonder we can't get 20-30 year olds in the door. We want to know that we matter, and being called a kid who should get out in my community and do something that matters doesn't exactly make me feel like I'm important. I guarantee that people my age don't come to church to sit in pews. We come to care about each other, and not just those seated next to us, but we come to care about the world as a whole.

More to come later on this, I'm working on where we go from here...
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2 Comments:

Laura,

Eloquent! You are to the point about "shooting ourselves in the foot," and right to the heart of the matter. Very well said. The situation worries me alot.

John

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:45 AM  

Great update, Thanks. I love the t-shirt! I want one, but no one would get it---or is it prejudiced of me to assume that?

Thanks for standing up for the future generation of leaders.

By Blogger Kel aka Daddyo, at 6:46 PM  

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