Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hetta and the Harbor Bridge:
What Young People Want to Teach the Church

A few of us at St Christopher's find ourselves making regular trips across the bridge these days (to Corpus Christi) to spend time with our sisters and brothers on the campuses of Del Mar College and Texas A & M University - CC.  These trips began with a simple goal: make young adult friends from whom we can learn about the faith, and whom we can serve.  This is a tremendous passion of mine: to listen to Christians in others stations of life and to learn from their understanding and appreciation of the Faith.  To the college student: what is it about this Gospel of Jesus that you simply can't put down?  At least among Episcopalians, we share the same words, but each generation discerns distinct emphases.  Much of my own early life was rooted in the company and under the tutelage of strong Anglo-Catholic influences.  (Despite my age, I come off "retro" or, as one older clergy said, a "throw-back" - tho I hope they don't throw me back.)   Maybe because of this, I am keen to lean forward in both directions, and to learn the faith through the eyes of younger friends.    

A recent conversation with a younger friend in nursing school (1) gave me and my church family much to consider.   Hetta loves the Lord and wants to talk with others who do, too.  Denomination is important to her, but it is not a litmus test for conversation.  Hetta observed that many churches want to use the gifts of young people, but few churches have imaginations for those gifts beyond the churches' existing needs - plugging gaps.  Hetta doesn't want to simply fill a need; she wants to be recognized as a person with her own voice.  She wants in on the conversation.  Hetta especially resents it when churches seek to justify extraneous agendas through the guise of reaching young people.  "Why don't they just talk to us?  It feels like they either have me figured out already or don't really want to know."  Hetta wants the chance to be heard; and she wants to hear others, even if she doesn't agree with them.

Hetta said that she and her friends are summarized well by the name of a popular website:  "We are not fake" is a virtual connection place where young Christians can talk honestly about life and faith.  Hetta emphasized that not being fake is not a judgment on others - it's supposed to be good news, the good news that the only thing that drives her away from Christian community is people who refuse to be who they are.  The only rejection is for those who have rejected themselves.

Hetta's commitment to imperfect people walking the pilgrim walk together came to mind yesterday, when I read this reflection from Jean Vanier.  It appears in the Ordinary Radicals prayer book, and only on February 29, which means it's a good thing I caught it when I did.  Here's Vanier's reflection:

“Almost everyone finds their early days in a community ideal. It all seems perfect. They feel they are surrounded by saints, heroes, or at the least, most exceptional -people who are everything they want to be themselves. And then comes the let-down. The greater their idealization of the community at the start, the greater the disenchantment. If -people manage to get through this second period, they come to a third phase — ​that of realism and of true commitment. They no longer see other members of the community as saints or devils, but as -people — ​each with a mixture of good and bad, darkness and light, each growing and each with their own hope. The community is neither heaven nor hell, but planted firmly on earth, and they are ready to walk in it, and with it. They accept the community and the other members as they are; they are confident that together they can grow towards something more beautiful.”


(1) We'll call her Hetta, because I don't know any Hettas just now.  And I like the name.

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