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« The Need for an Open Table | Main | Learning to BE Church: An Interview with a House-Church Team, part 3 »

September 23, 2004

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I'm the publisher of Journey to Adulthood (J2A), an Episcopal youth ministry program that has Rite-13 (Celebration of Manhood and Womanhood) and several other rites of passage. A parish developed this and over the last 10+ years the Episcopal church (along with other churches) has worked on this issue. The program has essentially moved the age of confirmation to at least 16 (or older) because the Rite 13 liturgy (held near one's 13th birthday or at least in that year) provides that rite of passage that both children and their parents need -- it says "you are no longer a child -- you now are on a journey to adulthood." The next two years are focused on gaining adulthood skills and culminate in a pilgrimage (another rite of passage in which the young person leaves his/her home and seeks God where others have found the sacred and then returns and is re-incorporated into the community as a young adult). The last two years, that young adult identifies and is commissioned for a ministry (with a mentor), prepares a Credo (which may be presented at confirmation or a special service) and the group leads the congregation in a mission/service ministry. So, in six years, a child goes from Sunday School/home into a youth community, through acquiring adult skills and then into being a fully participating member of the adult Christian community. The last rite of passage is a sending forth as a missionary on behalf of the congregation -- carrying out into the world the faith they have gained.

While there are no formal studies of this program, we hear lots of stories about how it impacts youth, their parents and the congregation as a whole. I think that some of the most important elements of J2A are the rites of passage. One mother told me about her daughter's changed behavior afterwards. She asked her why she thought it happened. The daughter's explanation: something changed, I realized I had to start growing up now, and that meant I needed to relate to you (her mother) more like an adult and stop fighting you over everything. So, now we talk it out instead.

Underlying principles of J2A are: Manhood and Womanhood are gifts of God. And: Adulthood must be earned. However, unlike most churches, J2A assumes that the adults in the community (not just the parents) are responsible for helping the child learn those adult skills and behaviors and so asks at least six adults to walk with the youth (3 groups/2 yrs. each) on that journey. And it assume that the congregation will accept the young adults
as fully participating members NOW -- not as the "future of the church."

It's certainly not the prefect answer, but I sure wish I had something like it when I was in parish ministry!!

Good words, you all have good words there. Noboday asked me but if you did i might say something like "Adolesence isn't an age, it's a disease some are never cured from." I think the cure is the old listening and bleiveing in the young. Osmosis. Ceremony is key. The souls of the young are staying young much longer these days. ( compare the average age of those "boys" who had signed our dec. of Indie. )but culture is forcing there outsides into a premature growth that i like to call perversion
coom by ya....My Loard....!

Sounds like J2A does everything I wrote I was looking for, pretty much. Glad we don't have to reinvent the wheeel. Like you Linda, I wiah that I'd had access to something like this much earlier in ministry. There's a further interesting challenge for people involved in what you USAmericans call campus ministry [but we call university/college chaplaincy] -how can we build on and even reinforce such a process? College is part of the journey into adulthood for nearly half the young people in the UK [don't know the US figures, sorry] more if you include non-university participation in post-compulsory education ....

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