Youth and young adults need to be part of Church leadership to have a “voice” in communicating the Good News and evangelisation of their peers using today’s technology.
Bishop Jason Gordon of Bridgetown, Chair of the Antilles Episcopal Conference’s (AEC) Communications Commission said the AEC’s Pastoral Letter New ways of Being Church in a Digital Milieu is a “wake up” to Church about today’s reality.
“At every level of leadership of the Church we have to have the capacity for communicating in this way. We have to bring the millennials into leadership because without them we cannot be the Church that Christ is asking us to be.”
In an interview with media August 7 at the Emmaus Retreat Centre, Arima, after the launch of the pastoral letter, he said the bishops are “looking towards communities of inter-generational partnerships”. Commenting on the reception of new media, he said traditionalists and Baby Boomers have one experience but they did not understand the technology in the same way as “a digital native”. The Baby Boomers are “immigrants” while traditionalists are most times “tourists” in their use of the technology.
Bishop Gordon gave the example of the 2014 Synod in Barbados which decided a youth or young adult should be part of leadership. “So on the parish council you must have a young adult, in any ministry where it is possible to have a young adult in leadership,” he said. This was a deliberate to have their participation.
“That is why we have to move now to the inclusion of youth/young adults in the leadership of the Church in all the different levels so that younger people have their voice at the table and can speak for themselves and not have people assume or speak for them.”
During the Q and A at the launch Bishop Gordon said the Church had to meet people where they are and invite them to discipleship.
He responded, “The Good News does not start inside the church. It starts wherever people are; they then want a community to be part of, then they become part of a community called Church. The meeting people where they are could never be a threat to the Good News in the Church.”
Bishop Gordon referenced Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), in which he urged the Church to go out, meet people where they are and proclaim the Good News.
While having a presence in the digital milieu, Sr Angela Ann Zukowski, professor University of Dayton Ohio, said “something has to be happening” in the parishes. She added, “We don’t want to leave them out there in cyberspace; everything we do should come back to the faith community in the parish and be active in the faith community in the parish.”
Sr Angela Ann, who is assisting with the preparation of the Integrated Pastoral Communications Plan for the region, emphasised that the parish environment has to be strong and supportive to all. “We will challenge many parishes to rethink what’s going on in their parish, to receive our young and middle age and older people…all different ages,” she said. – LPG