I was very interested to read the current statistics produced by the Church of England’s Ministry Division, which celebrates the fact that under 30’s now make up a quarter of all people accepted for training for Church of England Ministry.
Encouragingly the 2014 figures show that 116 under the age of 30 were accepted for training, the highest number for the last 25 years.
A Church that for so long seems to have undervalued the contribution that young vocations can bring to priestly ministry, not least in terms of enthusiasm, new vision and energy, has sort to address this with the appointment of a young vocations advisor in the person of The Reverend Liz Boughton (DOB 1966).
Min Div have come up with a number of new and imaginative schemes such as Mission Apprentices and Young Vocations Champions in each diocese in an attempt to target resources to this particular age group.
As Anglican Catholics young vocations has actually been one of our areas of strength and although we haven’t got exact figures, I think you only have to look at the age profile of Saint Stephen’s House to realise that this is something that we are achieving even with our limited resources and lack of Vocations Champions.
Certainly the Here I Am Vocations Initiative which has been running now for just under a year has attempted to connect with this group. The overall age profile of our videos and advertising literature seeks to promote vocations to both the younger candidate and ethnically diverse candidate. Only last night whilst speaking to a church group on vocations a comment was made about the age profile of that particular congregation being perhaps higher than anybody would want.
The person who made the comment also pointed out that many of our parishes seem to be in a similar position. I sometimes ask myself how is it that we are able to attract younger candidates if that is the case, indeed we can be proud of the fact that currently the youngest serving incumbent in the Church of England is a Traditionalist (Father Richard Norman).
Surely this is something to do with the fact that we talk about a priestly way of life, the giving of the whole of oneself, our young people are welcomed into the sanctuary and the majority of vocations are encouraged through the inspirational ministry of a particular parish priest.
The beauty of our worship and the whole mystic of the Mass makes connections that are so very different to the trendy culture of Messy Church.
But let’s not get complacent because the reality is for all of the Church that we constantly need to find new and imaginative ways of challenging people to think about their call to the priestly way of life.
Our ministry should truly reflect a whole range of age profiles, and unless we continue to put all our energies into nurturing priestly vocations then we are bound to find not only a constant strain to fill vacant parishes, but little opportunity to take up the General Synod’s current encouragement to Flourish and Grow as prescribed in the 5 principles.