First of all I want to thank Harold Delhagen for the invitation over 18 months ago to convene the working group on Emerging Leadership for our Synod. It has been an honor serving in this way. My written report to the Synod can be found here.
Our working group (whose names are at the bottom of the written report you have received) make up these demographics, some of whom are here in this room, Amaury and Lydia…..
- All under the age of 40, most under the age of 35
- Openly identify across the sexuality spectrum, from gay to straight to queer and in-between
- Anglo, Latino/a, African and Asian, immigrant and non-immigrant
- Some are married and partnered, some of those are in bi-racial relationships
- Some are dating and Some are single
- 4 members of the group speak at least two languages
- Most of the group are ordained clergy, one became ordained during the process, another is contemplating seminary
- Every member of our group in the 18 months we worked together with the exception of one person had some sort of a professional job change during the time we worked together, and only one member of those who changed positions during the last 18 months had a lateral move, the rest who made a move made a rather large jump professionally
- Out of the 7 member team at the beginning only 3 of us served in a “traditional” congregational call. By the end of the 18 months only two did and of the remaining two one had undergone significant changes in their call. The rest of the group serve in ministry positions but in nontraditional roles. We oftentimes discussed the reality we live with every day in ministry, with loving and serving our calls, whatever they might be, with full energy but also realizing that we are all potentially serving the church for the last time, that our next professional experience might not be “church” related. Nearly everyone on the team was completely comfortable with that reality.
- Each member of the team shared an equal level of deep and abiding love for our denomination AND a deep and abiding sense of frustration with denominational life as it is currently structured.
- For our first working group, we struggled to engage ruling elders or non-ordained leaders onto our team. We had only two and one of them was ordained as a teaching elder during our time together. This is typical of the leadership of those under 40, especially those under 30 in the PCUSA today. It is to a higher percentage led by teaching elders—a detail that is in great need of attention for it speaks to issues of dislocation, welcome, access and separation. This is a detail I want to especially highlight for us to pay attention to. How many ruling elders do you have in your local congregation and/or Presbytery who are under the age of 40 and to whom you are turning over the baton of leadership?
I bring up these “demographics” about the team because I believe they speak to many of the issues emerging leaders encounter and the skill set emerging leaders bring to the life of our larger church in Presbyteries, our Synod or local congregational work. As with any group, not just one thing identifies who each of us is.
Our team spent many hours in conversation, discernment and biblical study before our first public event for the Synod just a few weekends ago. Every time we gathered a large portion of our conversations centered around race and intersectionality, for this is the world we have lived in our whole lives.
We decided a year ago that we would name our group after a beloved citation in our Book of Order, W44003h, “Will you serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination and love?” We adopted this as the name of the working group, and since this is a group that shares information primarily across technological lines, put a # so that we can track each others commentary, blogging, tweeting etc. via #W44003h This hashtag will continue to serve this group as one tool of organizing going forward.
I have not spent as much time yet on activities, because these are just beginning. We did hold our first gathering a few weeks ago at Silver Bay YMCA on Lake George, NY which was attended by nearly 25 people from across our Synod. This was a time of connection, tears, conversation, movement building and finding new partners. As a Synod that sees itself as porous, we are intentionally reaching out to neighboring Synods to join us in this project along with the Synod of Boriquen.
The group that gathered at Silver Bay has decided that in the next 12 months we will hold at least one other large scale gathering but organize ourselves in between via social media to begin smaller groups that are locally-based and a mixture of both ongoing meetings and episodic gatherings. We do not know what this group will do yet in the Synod or what energy, intelligence, imagination or love will emerge. I trust that the Spirit will show us the way forward.