Monday, March 14, 2011

Defining A Ministry

We will be getting another priest at my church this summer, and it's a good thing. We're a downtown parish with your typical cross-section of downtown parish humanity: lots of senior citizens, college students, single people and those in relationships. The church building itself is constantly hopping with worship services, classes, lunches, group meetings. So it all makes sense that we need another priest.

Some of us were discussing what her role would be. And that's when I heard that she will be dealing with "young marrieds."

I'm not entirely sure what "young marrieds" means, except it clearly doesn't include me. I'm learning that, in church circles, I'm on the older side of "young". And I am not married, and can not be married in the state of Florida.

I understand the need to designate roles among multiple clergy members. It's a way to distribute the load of caring for a large and diverse parish. I wonder what it does, though, when a term like "young marrieds" gets used to describe a segment of the church population that are to be served? A population which includes a lot of unmarrieds, and constitutionally-banned from being marrieds? For me, I hear an unconscious heterosexual prejudice in the term. There seems to be an assumption by some in the church that anyone in the 20-40 year-old set is a potential "married". I think that's because with the potential married comes the additional title of potential "parent" which leads to the potential "baptism" and the potential report back to the diocese saying, "Look, Bishop: we're growing!!"

I don't begrudge the need to reach out and involve the "young marrieds" in the church. Certainly, families help to keep a parish growing. But I think we need a different term for who we are talking about when we we are discussing those of us in our 20s, 30s, and 40s. Otherwise, it can become a stumbling block for some, and an unintentional, if thoughtless, one at that. I think something that is a little more inclusive of all the people in that age group in their various walks of life is in order. Perhaps, "Young adults?"


Phoebe said...

I hear you.
Do you like the term YAMS 'Young Adults, Married and Single'? I am not sure she will be working with them.. but since she is designated to work with children.. and we have 'single' parents...

SCG said...

I YAMS what I YAMS, Phoebe! :) I think that acronymn works, and is cute. Certainly better than hearing "young marrieds". I don't think most straight people are conscious of how that term sounds in the ears of a gay person in a place such as Florida.
When I visited St. David's in Austin, TX, I noticed that they had a "GLEE Club": "Gay and Lesbian and Everyone Else". I know SJ won't have that, but it was nice to see the twist on the term... and reached that same "YAMS" population through a different doorway.

Anonymous said...

YAMS ! How delicious! I think I have heard this before. It is appropriate and it should be used in other parishes.