Mission Trip Countdown:Praying for the Church Van

Our mission trip to eastern Kentucky is just hours away!  We will be leaving some time before the crack of dawn to begin our long trek up I-75 to the mountains.  We are traveling in a diocesan bus.  (I haven’t seen it yet but am told that it is colorful.)  In the midst of my pre-departure jitters, I’ve had a little poem on my mind that I saved years ago.  It’s by Michael Chitwood and I believe I ran across it in Poetry magazine:


My evangelical brethren have let me know,
via the quarterly fundraising letter,
that they can’t get the gospel around
because their van has given up the ghost.
God in the machine, help them.
I lift up their carburetor and their transaxle.
Bless them with meshed gears and a greased cam shaft.
Free their lifters.
Deliver their differential
and anoint their valves and their pistons.
Unblock their engine block
and give them deep treaded tires.
Their brakes cry out to You.  Hear them, O Lord.
Drive out the demons from their steering column
and come in to the transmission
that they may know the peace of passing.
Minister even unto the turn indicator.
Creator Spirit, Holy Maker of the Universe,
give them gas.

All joking aside, please keep us in your prayers, as well as all the other folks who are heading out this summer for the great privilege of mission team work.

Thanks for reading.  Will let you know how the journey goes….

Millennials & the Church: What does the research tell us?

Look around a typical Sunday morning congregation and chances are you won’t see many college students.  Is this a new trend?  Is it getting worse?  What do we really know about college kids and their religious practices and beliefs?

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has done some extensive research on Americans and religion, interviewing 35,000 adults and reporting on their religious beliefs and practices, as well as social and political attitudes.  The resulting report, U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, includes a full section on the religion among Millennial age group (age 18 to 29). 

There is, somewhat predictably, good news and bad news.

The report subtitle categorizes Millennials as “less religiously active than older Americans, but fairly traditional in other ways.”  Specifics issues  include:

  • One in four (25%) in this age group are unaffiliated with any religious tradition, describing themselves instead as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.”
  • Nearly one in five (18%) in this age group say they were raised in a religious tradition but are now unaffiliated with any particular denomination.
  • More young adults in this age group are unaffiliated now than young adults were in recent decades.  (Compare the current 25% with Generation X at 20% in the late 1990s and Baby Boomers at 13% in the late 1970s.)
  • Less than half of adults under age 30 said that religion was very important in their lives.

There are, of course, some brighter (or less dark?) spots:

  • Among the Millennials who claim affiliation with a religious tradition, the intensity of that bond is as strong today as in previous generations.
  • Young adults in general attend religious services less frequently than older adults but this generational difference is fairly small between young and older adults with a strong religious affiliation.
  • Millenials engage in a number of religious practices (reading Scripture, prayer, and meditation) less frequently than older adults; however, these numbers are in line with what Gen-Xers and even Baby Boomers reported at the same time period in their lives.
  • More than three-quarters (76%) of young adults believe that there are absolute standards of right and wrong. Interestingly enough that percentage is almost identical in older age groups (77%).
  • More than half of young adults (55%) think that churches should speak out on social and political issues.  (49% of older adults said the same.)

There is much more information available on the Pew Forum website on this topic!  The Millennial report concludes with the following recommendations for further reading:

Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults by Christian Smith and Patricia Snell (2009)

After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion by Robert Wuthnow (2007).

And this in a review of this last book from Publisher Weekly: “Wuthnow argues that our society provides lots of structural support for children and teens, but leaves younger adults to fend for themselves during the decades when they’re making crucial decisions about family and work.”

Food for thought indeed…..

Thanks for reading!

P.S. You may have noticed that I’ve added a blog roll.  (It was a bit of a challenge for me and I’m rather proud of the accomplishment.)  I’ve started with just a few Episcopally relevant blogs/sites.  If you have recommendations for more, please let me know!

Questioning the Almighty: What does God need with a starship?

OK, so I must confess that I’m a Trekkie from way back.  I could quote you lines from many Star Trek episodes and movies but my absolute all time favorite Star Trek scene happens to be from the film Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  In this particular passage the crew has traveled (with much action and many adventures, of course!) to a planet beyond the Great Barrier and the landing party has finally come face to face with what appears to be the Face of God–or at least an Old Testament prophet sort of giant talking head.  “God” is in the process of welcoming his “children” and asks that they bring their spaceship just a little closer to the planet when a hand goes up from the back of the group.  The ensuing dialogue goes something like this:

Kirk: Excuse me… Excuse me… I just wanted to ask a question. What does God need with a starship?

McCoy: Jim, what are you doing?

Kirk: I’m asking a question.

“God”: Who is this creature?

Kirk: Who am I? Don’t you know? Aren’t you God?

Sybok: He has his doubts.

“God”: You doubt me?

Kirk: I seek proof.

This past Sunday was the second Sunday of Easter and most of us heard again the story of Thomas and Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances recorded in John’s Gospel.  Because Thomas is not with the other disciples when Jesus first appears, he does not believe their witness, saying instead that unless he sees the mark of the nails in Jesus’ hands and puts his hand in his side, he will not believe. 

He seeks proof.

Thomas is commonly known as “Doubting Thomas,” though the label is misleading.  After all, having found the proof he needed, Thomas was himself a powerful witness and went on to preach the Gospel as far away as Persia and India.  He is the patron saint of architects, builders, construction workers, masons, and stonecutters–solid professions all.  Proof, perhaps, of the foundation of faith established by his relationship with Jesus, a relationship strong enough to tolerate questions.  Said Pope St Gregory the Great of Thomas:  “Do you really believe that it was by chance that this chosen disciple was absent, then came and heard, heard and doubted, doubted and touched, touched and believed?….In a marvelous way God’s mercy arranged that the disbelieving disciple, in touching the wounds of his master’s body, should heal our wounds of disbelief.”

And what does all this have to do with campus ministry?  One of the great offerings we have as the church on campus is to create an environment where it is safe to ask questions.  What better place to find a community in which you can wonder, explore, seek proof, “touch and believe”?  Today’s college campus in fact seems to be a perfect place to find healing for our “wounds of disbelief” and to build a strong foundation of faith.

As always, thanks for reading.  More to come….


Welcome to the Episco-Bulletin!  I am one member of a small group currently working to revitalize the campus ministry activities based at the Chapel Center @ USF, which is the Episcopal presence on the campus of the University of South Florida  (Go, Bulls!) in beautiful Tampa, Florida.  We have a wonderful facility with a long history–unfortunately, its recent history has been mostly inactive! I hope to use this forum to explore the Chapel Center’s story and chronicle the progress we make in the months ahead.

When I first got involved with this project, I polled every priest and Episcopal clergy-type person I knew to ask what online and print resources were available for campus ministry.  The answer seemed to be: not many!  So, my second goal for this blog is to find out how the Episcopal Church (and the Church in general) is present on college campuses today.  I hope to review some books, interview folks with thriving programs, and share whatever “best practices” I discover.

And, about the Episco-Bulletin name…..

When we first reopened the Chapel Center, my priest made the suggestion that,

Since Episocopals at FSU are the “Episco-Noles”

And Episocopals at UF are the “Episco-Gators”,

It made perfect sense that Episcopals at USF should be known as……

Well, I’m sure you get the picture.  (Go, Episco-Bulls!)

St Anselm, the outstanding 11th century theologian for whom our chapel is named, is perhaps best know for his motto fides quarens intellectum, or “faith seeking understanding.” This refers to something along the lines of: “an active love of God seeking a deeper knowledge of God.”  This is very appropriate for us at St Anselm’s Chapel: we are seeking a deeper knowledge of God through our worship and fellowship together.

Come along!  We have an interesting journey ahead!

%d bloggers like this: