A couple of parishioners and interested folks have asked me about the book that I recently finished in partnership with young adults involved in ministry at Christ Church, New Haven. Specifically, the question usually is, “So what’s the book about?”
Here is a short answer – it is about what it means to welcome the voices of young adults into the life of the Church so that we and they can be transformed in the miracle of being the Body together. There are essays from 22 young adults in the book along with my own various essays as well as essays from three clergy colleagues who also work with young adults.
The chapters are the following:
Tradition and Relevance
Authenticity and Identity Crisis
Rigor (in prayer, theology, and mission)
The Beauty of Holiness
Mission and Evangelism
Seeking and Searching
Communities Changing Individuals (how do intentional communities change those in them)
Communities Changing the Church (how do these communities change the Church around us)
The essays from the interns are really the heart of this book as they lay out what it means for them to be a faithful yet searching people in today’s society. One of the challenges I noticed in the wider Church was that there are many people who are talking about young people and the Church but there did not seem to be many places where their voices were actually being heard. This book is an attempt to give them a forum to share what is going on in their hearts and minds as they struggle to live and serve as people of faith in a cultural context that is changing faster than we can analyze or catalog.
I want to lift up a couple of quotes from different contributors that give a flavor of the book:
“When I think about tradition, I think about our grandparents. I think about the very root of the word “tradition,” which comes to us from the Latin trader – literally to give across time, to hand down, to transmit. I think about the wisdom that our grandparents hand down. I think about how much was handed down to me. I was marked, claimed, formed in ways that were not of my own choosing, in ways that make me who I am.” – Joseph Wolyniak
“Countless of my college classmates, friends from church, and childhood playmates followed a path similar to my own, living in community and finding new ways of encountering the Divine. Faith-based intentional communities offer stability, relationship, and discernment. But more than anything, they address this hunger, which, at its core, is hunger for authentic connection with other people and with God.” – Jordan Trumble
“Authenticity is less a matter of what we do than a matter of who we are. It cannot be divorced from knowledge of self: If we are to be true to ourselves, we must know to which self we must be true. It is difficult to live an authentic life when trapped in the middle of an identity crisis, for Christians as much as anyone. Christians and the Church find their identity in Christ. To be authentic, and so true to ourselves, we must be true to Christ.” – Ed Watson
“The Daily Office was not something that I just stumbled upon; people I trusted in my church community recommended it to me. They invited me into a process of deepening my relationship with both God and community and served as comfort and support along the way. They asked me to try something difficult and for that I will be forever grateful.” – Neil Raman
“As with acolyting, Christian community living is not about how much or how often we “get it right” and successfully fulfill our obligations. It is instead about our intention, the care we take to serve and be present for one another.” – David Burman
“I have known Christ most fully in churches that took me seriously as a young adult. I want my friends who are sitting on the fence to be exposed to these churches. I want these churches to know that they can draw my friends in. In these churches, I was offered Christian responsibility, discipline, and intergenerational community.” – Laurel McCormack
“The Church’s greatest gift to young people is not becoming something different than who it is and has been but instead, the greatest gift is in sharing and inviting people to be a part of that which has given life to so many throughout the centuries.” – Steven King
“I lost some control of my life, let others have a say in it, let them determine the pace and nature of my days. In doing so, I became part of a group, a larger we, a process that helps me learn to accept God’s presence in my life.” – Carrie Staab
There are so many great contributions that it is impossible to lay them all out here without basically cutting and pasting the entirety of the book! It is a joy to read through these wonderful essays and see in each of them the struggle and joy of faithful Christian lives.
In the foreword to the book, David Cobb, the rector of Christ Church says:
“What we aim for is not the ‘pretty” – the decorated or the trendy. It is beauty that matters. And that word encompasses any work that reflects human dignity and the innate goodness of creation. Beauty is not confined to the useful, but it does speak of purpose – of the deep purpose in all things and in all people – to reflect the glory of God. What we strive for is not to be relevant or to catch the wave of current imagination, but to speak as truly as possible of what we have heard of God and know of ourselves.”
In my introduction, I wrote, “We are acutely aware, in many circles, that whatever we have been doing just isn’t working anymore. We now have a chance to find a new and yet very old way forward that is built not on cultural assumptions, social expectations, or privilege but is something that can tap the most essential of desires – a yearning for a deeper relationship with the Triune God. I firmly believe that our young adults can lead the way in this revitalization. In some ways, the task at hand is to figure out how to pass along the tools, traditions, and more that are essential to our identity and let them take the lead. The emerging generation is less invested in tearing down or even rebuilding. They are passionate about conserving, caretaking, and community.”
Others seem to have found it worth the read and for that I am thankful.
Susan Snook writes, “A book that points the way to a new hope for the church, rooted not in innovation, but in the recovery of the most ancient traditions of the church: community, beauty, liturgy, serve, prayer. Young adults are hungry for these ancient, transcendent experiences, and want to serve a God who calls them to give their best.”
Bishop Ian Douglas kindly wrote, “In this wonderfully accessible book, Robert Hendrickson brings together the deep tradition and commitment to God’s mission at the heart of the Anglo-Catholic movement with the passion and spirituality of young adults today. The lessons it offers are far reaching for any church that seeks to be faithful to God’s mission in the twenty-first century. Read this book and be inspired.”