I was at Glenalmond yesterday, visiting the Provincial Youth Network's annual bash. Glen 10 has proved really popular with over 100 young people attending over the two week period. We need to do two weeks these days because of its increasing popularity and the number of youngsters who want to go back again and again continues to grow.
This has a roll-on effect, and the number of leaders needed come from a great pool of young adults who have attended themselves as teenagers. I was really impressed! I came away extremely moved by the enthusiasm, energy and faith which I witnessed, young folk expressing themselves in worship, being immensely creative in their fun, and forging links and friendships which in many cases may well be life-long.
How do we build on this stuff? The days when we patronised these youngsters by patting them on the head and telling them they were the Church of the future is surely in our past now, and we can now start taking this Church of the present very seriously indeed. Bishop Mark is facilitating something strong and exciting, but I suspect that the Episcopal Church is not very sure what to do with it.
I watched at General Synod when the PYN made a telling contribution on the Saturday morning, and most folk commented that it was actually the highlight of Synod proceedings, but I suspect that we've all gone away and forgotten all about them! One of the problems is that PYN is simply a network within the Church and so has no teeth whatsoever. That needs to be addressed and the Youth Network needs to be given a proper voice and allowed to make the sort of contribution that is taken seriously and requires action and support from Synod.
Some years ago I ran a Youth Event called "Not the General Synod". We met at the same time as Synod in Perth, but our voice wasn't heard. Could that sort of thing be done again in the future? We certainly have enough young folk to achieve it. There would have to be a willingness to make that happen, and with the technology available, General Synod could be made aware throughout their proceedings just how our young people are thinking about the issues which our wee church wrestles with.
If we were to meet simultaneously, then different days would need to be chosen, but it could be possible for Youth Synod to meet on the weekend before General Synod convenes. All it takes is the will to make this happen.
The other thing I pondered as I drove back last night was about fostering vocations. How do we do that with the group we have, and what would we have to offer in the way of full-time training for ministry? Could we use Cumbrae as the new TISEC, and have a Theological College again? It would certainly be expensive, but I believe, again if there was the will, that this could be achieved and sustained. An annual retreat for young people aimed at fostering vocation could easily be set up, and I understand that other folk in the SEC are thinking along the same lines.
Meanwhile, to the leaders, movers and shakers. Don't give up! Eventually the Pisckie Church will sit up, take notice, and begin to listen properly to what you have to say!
Oh! And the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, aka The Mad Hatter, can be seen here!