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World Youth Day 2013

World Youth Day

World Youth Day 2013
I am not attempting any sort of summary, reporting, or full analysis of World Youth Day in Rio. There are plenty of other places where you can find this.

I don’t think numbers are by any means everything, but they are not nothing. So I do want to start by underlining that about a million young people were at the Friday Stations of the Cross, and about three million are reported to have celebrated with the Pope on Sunday.

I want to hold this in dialogue with an article that has been doing the rounds, and another that is just taking off.

I was recently on holiday in another city. [Let me protect the innocent/guilty by not naming the city]. Those I spoke to said there were two thriving churches there (numerically, with youth, etc.). One was Pentecostal, the other Roman Catholic.

It seems to me that Anglicanism in this country (aging and numerically struggling) looks with envy… in the Pentecostal direction. Yet, IMO, Anglicanism, as a reformed catholic church, would more naturally be able to learn from that other reformed catholic church, Post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism.

Rachel Held Evans says,

Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.

She continues

I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular.

Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.

What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.

Andrea Palpant Dilley is saying something similar

the next generation might … unearth the altar, the chalice and the vestments and find them not medieval but enduring. They might uncover the [1979] Book of Common Prayer and find it anything but common.

World Youth Day Rio

I’m not suggesting that Roman Catholicism has all the answers. Nor that the answers are simple. I’m suggesting that some/much of what Anglicans (and others – if the hat fits, wear it) do, tastes of bait-and-switch, confusing worship and evangelism, encouraging shallowness rather than depth, concerned about “who will keep our pretty building and our lovely tradition going?” Young people, then, are there for us more than we are here for young people

So what are some of the Roman Catholic positives that I think Anglicans could look at and think about?

  • A community that centres on spirituality
  • Leadership that has an intentional focus on spirituality
  • Services that are primarily worship (not entertainment; emotional hype; a replacement for education, caring, or evangelism…)
  • Liturgy that is mostly by heart
  • A strong focus on education of the young, with Roman Catholic schooling

The Christchurch Roman Catholic diocese is planning Faithfest. They will have Mass at our largest indoor venue, CBS Canterbury Arena. It will be followed by an expo, cultural festival, and a a combined ecumenical choir.

Would Anglicans risk the possible embarrassment of organising such an event now? The last time we had such a diocesan event was two decades ago – the visit of Archbishop George Carey here. Compare that to the visit of his successor a couple of decades later.

What do I think are some of the things young people are looking for?

  • Integrity. They are looking for real role models, people they can relate with, people who are honest with them, including about weakness and doubt. Pope Francis is doing this.
  • Intelligence. Young people don’t want to be patronised. They don’t want a spirituality that stands in opposition to knowledge, information, science, technology. Spirituality is not to be an escape.
  • Interest. They appreciate people who take an interest in them – not those who see them as pew-fodder to sustain the future of the building, community, tradition, or institution. Not faked interest that has as its real purpose a bait-and-switch of converting them, or some other goal. And they will return the interest.

World Youth Day Copacabana beach

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15 thoughts on “World Youth Day”

  1. It is interesting that a question in my own mind is related to ‘what do I see / desire in the “church”?’ This is a very difficult question and one that almost should not be asked – or should be unasked once asked. For who can judge the quality of the bride? She is by definition without spot or wrinkle. Who can even allow my question with its gender-specific image?

    Yet I must answer. Some list rules for behaviour and commend them – but rules do not make the grade. Some consider the community – and certainly this is comforting (sometimes). Some consider the form of worship – and with great skill. But one thing is needful…

    The pious image of Mary at the feet of Jesus is too misleading – I need something beyond piety – a real transformative experience – out of sin, stupidity, or whatever else one can imagine – and into these gifts of community, liturgy, worship, learning etc. I need to consider that others also carry heavy baggage with them into presence – they can put the baggage aside… I recently read a book by an 80 year old on his youth. Who helped this man relieve himself of the burden accumulated and carried through the collapse of Empire…?

    There it is – we are alone with our burdens – and we are together. Community may be experienced everywhere – but Christ names the need as does Rashi – forgiveness – a new creation. I think the name must be named – but in naming it, we must not assume we have control of it.

    In my notes for Psalm 48 (the city) which follows the bride (45), the destruction of war (46), the ascension (47) – all these more tightly related than one word will allow, I wrote this:

    On the surface, we must be engaged in faithfulness to what we are called to. Under the surface, we are the kings of Psalm 2, with empty muttering, yet disturbed in our engagement, one by one, in the holy city. The provocation is inevitable and unavoidable. It is painful like birth, or, appropriately as a consecrated offering, like death, our death (T. S. Eliot, Journey of the Magi). But having been born, (the closing bracket for this major cell of the Psalter will be seen in Psalm 87) we also are in Zion, and observers of her towers and ramparts, so that we may recount them to a generation to come. We are in all roles in this redeemed creation. Rashi, as usual, has an important insight. Why is the city the joy of the whole earth? Because of the north side where the sin offerings and guilt offerings are slaughtered. The sinner ‘receives expiation and he departs from there happy. Thus by virtue of the sacrifices, happiness comes into the world.’ Rashi is rightly seeing what is there, of course.

      1. sorry Bosco – I usually see the little sign – your comment is awaiting moderation. This time I didn’t – but I also didn’t wait quite long enough. I am sure there is a sign here somewhere!

  2. Bosco, I appreciate your comments via positivia on Roman Catholic Liturgy. Being RC I like many in any of various traditions find it difficult to pin down what is a liturgical spirituality. In the end I believe that Catholic Liturgy is relational, personal, free, transformative, bodily and future-orientated to take some key phrases that speak to what Liturgy should be – Presence. I perhaps am not so positive about Liturgy by Heart, as I belive Liturgy should be yes profound, but simple and creative. Rhythm can achieve this but often the rote that Liturgy can become, for the perspective of my spirituality, stifles the Spirit. In my years working with young males in Catholic schools they always responded to Presence – their presence to peers, teachers, signficant others and the returned presence to them. The fact that for so many young men and women that this presence is via negitiva means that Liturgy makes no sense. Liturgy must flow out from Presence and we as the Liturgical assembly give life or otherwise to that Presence.

    1. Thanks, Phillip.

      Your points, I think are so important, and really need to be further developed as part of a future blog post that I have been thinking about.

      “By heart” can degenerate to merely rote. But that certainly loses the “heart” part essential to liturgy.

      I cannot quickly expand on the idea but point interested people back to my talk as a starter.

      I think that liturgy by heart can (and needs to) also not clutter simplicity and stifle the creative.

      I am sure that you and I have been in faith communities and seen examples of presiding that is both/and – both “by heart” and “simple and creative”. That is what I want to bottle and share 🙂


  3. Bravo, Bosco!

    I’ve been saying to people: it’s not that we need a new marketing campaign; it’s that we need to remind ourselves that we actually have a product.

    I like your description of post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism as “that other reformed catholic church”. The current reformation (Roman and Anglican) is proving just as messy as the last one.

    A nineteenth-century C of E bishop, in the preface to his exposition of the 39 Articles, wrote that the Reformation’s “foundation was laid, both in the good and in the evil qualities of our nature. Love of truth, reverence for sacred things, a sense of personal responsibility, a desire for the full possession of spiritual privileges, co-operated with the pride of human reason, the natural impatience of restraint, and the envy and hatred inspired among the nobles by a rich and powerful hierarchy”.

    Plus ça change…

  4. I’ve been pondering about what attracts me about the (sort-of-pentecostal) church I attend, and the list I’ve come up with includes (in no particular):
    Multi-generational (we have retirees, families and youth all in the same service)
    Real – the kind of place where it’s safe to be yourself, with the good, bad and ugly, and be accepted and supported. And the leadership aren’t afraid to show their real-life struggles too sometimes.
    Relaxed – in that we have an informal service style, and also have fun and let our hair down on a regular basis outside of the Sunday morning service
    Spiritual – a worship environment where I can encounter God in a fresh, deeper way on a regular basis. Its not about the style of music, but about being with a group of people intent on focusing on God.
    Theologically sound: we have a team of speakers who are respected ecumenically. Sermons contain plenty of “meat” to challenge and inspire the experienced Christians, as well as covering the basics for new believers.
    Outward focused: its not just about us, but the church is involved in a number of community programs, not to try to recruit new members, but just to meet the needs of those around us.
    I’m not longer “Young” (sadly – where did those decades go?) but I think the kind of things I’m appreciating about Church are the things people of all generations are looking for.

    1. Claudia, if I didn’t have my own Sunday commitments, your list would encourage me to join 🙂 The only place I might pause on your list is “informal”. I think a service can be structured and still relaxed. You may have seen my discussion with Phillip about being by heart without being merely rote. Expressing that well is going to take more than a brief comment. Thanks and blessings.

      1. Who said informal wasn’t structured? It’s more a matter of style, and it doesn’t suit everyone.

        I actually think the informal service is the least important aspect of what’s on my list (although the let-your-hair-down social events are important). I think that a more formal church that had all the other qualities would still be an awesome place. It’s like what Philip is saying – the most important aspect is the people and relationships.

        He aha te mea nui o te ao?
        He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

        What is the most important thing in the world?
        It is people! It is people! It is people!

        As much as I’m biased, I know we’re not perfect, and there are some areas I know we could improve on.

        P.S. I know you’d appreciate this one, Bosco, there’s even an up-to-date website and a facebook page. 🙂

        1. I’ve been working on a post, Claudia, probably for next week, based around some of our discussion. Do you have to come to the Sundays to be welcome at the hair-letting-down events? Ps. My hair is permanently down! [As for your own ps. wait for my post this Saturday] Blessings.

  5. I hope it is a both-and world, Bosco, as I like wearing skinny jeans!

    One question I am puzzling over is how we connect our liturgy to Jesus. I appreciate that some people do connect to Jesus through a return to (so to speak) eucharist a la medieval custom. But I wonder whether for those for whom that does not help could be helped by a plainer eucharist, a la ‘the Last Supper’.

    It might even be presided over by a dude wearing skinny jeans! (Because that’s what Jesus would wear if alive today. Natch.)

    1. Thanks, Peter. I’m not sure if you are responding directly to the post or expanding on the comments that pick up your similar points? Just to be clear for others reading this, I think there is a tendency amongst some/many to think that those interested in liturgy are seeking a maintenance or return to medieval custom. Far from it. Much of the energy is in trying to help people to unclutter the medieval accretions. As to how “plain” the Last Supper actually was – I think many people would be surprised at its ritualised form – relaxed formality much of it by heart, to pick up some of the discussion above. My concern would be if the focus moves to “what helps me?” That can become quite a divisive perspective, and I wonder what Paul would write at 1 Cor 1:10-13 to a church that divided over differences that help me? Blessings.

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