This can probably be filed under the category of “rant”. Also, under the category of “Gillian is procrastinating from writing a paper”.
I am constantly asked what kind of church or other setting I would like to end up in once I have completed my studies here. The question came up again this week with someone at school and I think that I gave my most coherent answer to date. Reflecting on my answer later at home I realized I’d still gotten it wrong. Or, rather, the question we are asking is wrong.
So I put the question out on twitter and continued to think about the subject.
Can we stop asking what kind of church I want to work at when I’m ordained & start asking what we need 2 do 2 ensure we still have a church?
— Gillian (@gillrh) September 25, 2013
I was surprised when I was interviewed by the Diocesan Committee on Ordained Ministry last year to be asked questions about parish specifics: size and location of where I might want to work, whether I would like to be full- or part-time, paid or unpaid. While I understand that they have to work out if the diocese even needs more priests, I had hoped that they would have had a more forward-looking view of things: Will this model of ministry that we have inherited over the last five billion years (only a slight exaggeration) still be functional and/or relevant when I am finished? When I shared this observation with my bishop, I added that I did not really want to leave my job, move across the country, and go to school for three years in order to maintain a status quo that is broken. (Or, as Dr Horrible says: “Because the status is not quo!”)
It is broken because we are spending more money on maintaining our buildings than on active ministry. It is broken because it isn’t working: the average age of people attending (mainline) churches is increasing and the number of people attending is decreasing. Soon we are all going to die out. Die out, that is, unless we can figure out a different way to do things.
So don’t ask me what kind of priest I want to be when I am all done. Instead ask what your community needs and let us work together to figure out what we can do and where a priest might fit into the mix.