Lest you think that General Convention is all paper-pushing and lavish bottles of wine, last night I attended an actual prayer service.
(I know. Contain your shock. Release your pearls. Rise up from your fainting couches.)
The service of Evening Prayer was organized by Acts8, of which I am a longtime member. We gathered in a hotel conference room, and held up our smartphones, and prayed our way through the psalms, the readings, the collects. Periodically, through the service, we gathered in small groups, and talked about where God might be calling us.
I sat in back with teenagers from my diocese of West Missouri. Part of our diocesan youth ministry involves sponsoring a group trip to General Convention each triennium, so here they all were—about 20 teenagers, dressed to the nines, showing up to talk to God.
(I know, again! There were Young Folk voluntarily praying! To Jesus! Will wonders never cease?)
In our small groups, we were asked to think about what we personally needed to die to, in order for resurrection to occur in the Church. One of the youth asked me what on earth this meant, and I responded with a knee-jerk “Well, what do YOU think it means?” This, as all good clergy who have been through clinical and pastoral education (CPE) will recognize is what you say when you don’t have an answer either.
She tilted her head thoughtfully and said, “I guess it’s whatever you really like that you should give up to make the church better, right? And I guess that’s time. I have to give up time to go to church and to diocesan youth stuff, and to youth group. And I like my time, but I need to give it up.”
I stared at her. Score one for the Holy Spirit. Silly Megan, assumptions are for the Trix rabbit.
Another girl jumped in. “I think I need to give up some of those traditions that I like. I like that we’re a traditional church and that we have all these things. But maybe we need to be open to what the world can teach us as well.” We compared frustrating “it’s always been this way!” experiences for a bit. She peered at me. “How about you?”
I thought about it for half a second. “Control. I have to give up control. I like to know exactly what’s coming, why it’s happening, and I like to have some element of control. I need to be better at giving that up.”
The other teens weighed in. They had to give up a need for absolute clarity, a need to always have things the same, a need to have all the answers. Thoughtfully and wisely, they discussed their experience in the church.
Then, as one, we stood to recite the Song of Simeon. I listened to their voices swirling around me in the familiar words, “Lord, you now have set your servant free” and thought about everything they had said, the wisdom they represent.
Lord, set us free from everything that keeps us in this tomb, and send us springing forth into the dawn you have prepared for us.
The Rev. Megan Castellan is an alternate deputy from the Diocese of West Missouri.