Today’s Youth Must Find A Voice

30 11 2009

The Church of England may not seem like an institution that is very good at listening, but it is ready to listen to young people, and we need to find a voice.

For well over a decade, the Church of England has been struggling with profoundly difficult, but ultimately internal, issues. Finding a new role for women’s ministry in the church, as well as a vicious debate over homosexuality, has led to a great deal of negative media attention. Consequently, outsiders have come to regard the CofE as an institution with little interest in, or relevance to, the real world.

As someone who spends more time than most hanging around churches, cathedrals and the ecclesiastical equivalent to the water-cooler, I see a very different side to the CofE. In particular, as a young person I see how keen the senior elements of the church are to listen to the youth voice.

This weekend I attended a service at Westminster Abbey, to celebrate the 5th Birthday of the Church of England Youth Council (CEYC). Somebody queried why it was that a youth service should be held at, of all places, Westminster Abbey. Surely, my friend asked, somewhere more appropriate could have been found to represent the energy and imagination of the youth in the church?

My friend may have had a point – Westminster Abbey is home (of sorts) to the established church. As the stage for great State occasions, the Abbey has come to represent a very traditional, unchanging and formal part of Christian life in this country. It is a place where protocol and formal uniforms abound – not, perhaps, the right image for a Youth Council.

But having attended the Service, I am convinced that it could not have been held anywhere more appropriate. In dealing with young people, there is always a danger that the church can create a ‘church within a church’. I cringe whenever somebody suggests that young people should be listened to because they are ‘the future of the church’. We are not – we are part of the church today.

The CEYC service at Westminster Abbey was reflective of that. By hosting such a service at the Abbey, the Dean of Westminster was making a statement to the young people there: ‘You are part of this Church of England. You are welcome here, as a valued part of our community.’

Through the Youth Council, diocesan youth synods and many other channels, young people have the potential to make an enormous impact on the Church. The current wind is a fair one for Christian youth. There is an opportunity, while the support for youth involvement lasts, to set out our vision for the church.

The Church is listening. We, the young people of that church, need to make sure we have something to say.

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2 responses

1 12 2009
Mark Russell

Well said James. I still think the venue was wrong, but that’s a personal view. The Church of England is indeed listening, so I think you should run for General Synod.

8 12 2009
Youth and Politics « Rambling's of a Student

[…] This post has been inspired by a friend’s post on youth and the church, which can be found here. The political landscape of the United Kingdom is changing and I feel that today’s youth is […]

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