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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Friday, March 20, 2009

In space no one can hear you scream

Last week our fearless Canon for Administration forwarded an email request to all the clergy in the diocese. Someone in the bowels of the national church offices is doing a survey on policies and procedures that churches follow in dealing with children. Yesterday I took five minutes to fill it out... sort of.

The "sort of" is because it is very obvious that whoever assembled the survey has a specific church model in mind, and it is not mine. Come to think of it, it's not most of the churches I know out here. Just a few examples:

  • "Your congregation": The survey repeatedly asks questions as though one priest/one parish were the only possibility. Hello-- almost half the congregations here are part of a yoked or cluster ministry, and Montana is not the only place where that is true. Should I complete it 4 times? But then what about the joint efforts my churches occasionally sponsor?
  • Attendance: Total number? Number of boys? Number of girls? Number of minority children? All the same answer: "less than 10," which tells them nothing. I'd love to have more than 10 children attending any of my churches in this region, EVER!! Heck, sometimes that describes the TOTAL Sunday morning attendance at a couple of my churches. Which brings me to...
  • Percentages: The presence of one African-American child among 3 children in one congregation is going to give an awfully skewed representation of racial diversity that just plain does not exist in Montana the same way it does in New York City.
  • Identity Verification Policy: (to make sure that kids don't leave with the wrong adults). No, we don't have one. Shocking, how lax we are! But really-- for the children in our ecumenical Wednesday-after-school club in Absarokee? We know them, and they know us. It's not hard in a community of 1000 people, when there are 12-15 kids from the 4 mainline churches in that town supporting the program.
I wrote an email to one of the nice survey people, suggesting it might be helpful to remember that we are not all program-sized parishes out here-- indeed, most of us operate much smaller than that-- and some of us are trying to serve in ways that do not fit traditional expectations. Mind you, this is something I've pointed out to folks at the hallowed halls in NYC before. I could have copied and pasted similar comments from correspondence to the offices of Small Church Ministry, Ecumenism, Evangelism, Congregational Development... and I can't be the only one out here sounding the drum of Envisioning Life Beyond Trinity Wall Street. This should not be a news flash.

It was. Awe and amazement! "It never entered our minds to put in any instructions for those serving more than one congregation." Then the poor dear hoped I'd talk with the people overseeing the survey project, because "the information you have about the realities of your congregations and community is absolutely essential to their designing programs effectively."


Would those be more seminars back east that I cannot afford to attend? Or more complex programs that I do not have the time or ability to implement without support that is not forthcoming?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something like half our congregations have an average Sunday attendance of 75 or fewer. I wonder if the designers of the survey know that.

March 20, 2009 1:27 PM  

Blogger Unknown said...

They better start listening to you, because we're all going to be working the way you are working soon!

March 20, 2009 2:06 PM  

Blogger Loribythesea said...

Oh man, I think I just printed out that same survey over the weekend - Quite a few pages, and I am not good when it comes to forms. Have you sent them some feedback? Hope so!

March 23, 2009 9:07 PM  

Blogger Crimson Rambler said...

"National Hindquarters" strikes again!!!

A few years back I heard an early Sunday a.m. radio news story about the drowning of an Anglican clergyperson and spouse in the Northwest Territories (snowmobile went through the ice)...I called Church House in Toronto next morning, nobody knew what I was talking about, "Oh perhaps we should contact the Bishop of the Arctic?" (Ya THINK?)

March 24, 2009 11:25 AM  

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