Imagine the future of the Episcopal church in three years, in ten years, and then in twenty years. The dates are easy to think about, 2018, 2025, and 2035. The average age of the person in the pews today is 57. These parishioners will be 60 by 2018, 67 by 2025, and 77 by 2035. What an opportunity awaits the Episcopal church. Rich in history and resources, generous of spirit, these persons will continue to mentor and raise up the next generation of leaders, congregants, and clergy. The legacy of those who are fifty seven is now being formed.
There is much our church has to offer, and wisdom is the most important. A fifty-seven year old person was born in 1958. His or her parents knew the tragedy of war and depression. The average aged parishioner witnessed revolutions in our culture and our church. By the time they were ten, civil rights were at the forefront of our church’s conversation. By the moment they were twenty, revolutionary moments in ordination and liturgy were occurring. By thirty, our society had begun to move into a technological transformation, the implications of such we are just now understanding. At forty, in 1997, the great church debates on sexuality were roiling and taking their toll on the church body. When these members of our church turned fifty, the great debates had simmered, boiled, and left us smaller in numbers, but mighty in wisdom. Now is the fulcrum moment of these people’s lives. Now is the turn to legacy.
The average aged person in our pews has seen it all and can now teach it all. Evangelism is not simply the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus. The word also includes the work of the proclaimer. Proclaimers come in many age ranges. To be a proclaimer, one must claim the work as his or her own. Teaching is a large part of the proclamation effort. Proclaiming to younger ones the hope of the Gospel of Jesus as well as the best practices of practical concerns. The average aged person in our pews will spend the next twenty years and more giving away what they know to those who need to hear it.
The best lessons are often not those spoken, but witnessed. How the average parishioner behaves now has great implications on the future of our church in total. Now is the moment that younger parishioners witness best practices in proclamation. From hospitality, liturgy, leadership, financial management, conflict resolution, and reconciliation, the average parishioners actions now will determine their legacy and the church’s future.
There is well worn wisdom in the common life of the Episcopal people of God. Wisdom that is to be shared and wisdom that is to be accepted. What a future the average parishioners can give the church by showing how they empower, peace make, renovate, and act as change agents for the Gospel. It is a legacy of common prayers led by those who have seen the good and the bad of the church and desire to bring those lessons to the next generations for the glory of God and the Gospel of Jesus.