Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Petra has just returned home from this fantastic youth conference.
I'm going to make a true confession: I was a little nervous about her going. Let me count the ways.
First, there was the matter of pastor-mom-pushing-pastor's-kid-to-participate-in-religious-stuff. Petra is 17. And, thus far, she has, apparently, been participating willingly in the life of each congregation I've served. She actually joined Saint Sociable two years ago, which made me very happy. Of course.
This has been a marked difference from my experience with her brother, who resisted church stuff around the time he was participating in Confirmation Class (age 13), and never willingly went again. Petra has been different.
Still, I was worried. Is she doing all this just to make mom happy? Last fall when the conversation began about whether to attend this conference or not, Petra was worried it would conflict with a summer theater program she normally participates in. I decided, early on, if it conflicted and she therefore resisted, I would absolutely let it go. Period. I have no desire to force my children to participate if it means they are there resentfully.
As it happens, it didn't conflict, and Petra signed up.
Still, I fretted, just a bit. I wondered, exactly what kind of theology would be on display at this conference? I mean, I assumed mainstream, orthodox Christianity-- and I'm, of course, down with that. But... would there be conservative elements? What if my child comes home-- horror!!!-- more conservative than when she left??? This is a young woman whose Facebook profile describes her as "Very Very Liberal," so my anxiety was... perhaps... misplaced. And I figured: Petra is who she is. I believe she has been taught sound theology, both at my knee, so to speak, and in the churches of her earlier childhood, before I was ordained. I trusted her to sort the wheat from the chaff. I also let go of the idea that I can control where she lands theologically. She is who she is, and she will be who she will be. And it will be wonderful, I feel sure.
Then, she went, and every night I received a call from her saying, essentially, THIS ROCKS. I was, of course, pleased. In fact, Petra tells me, more than one preacher threw out some words on GLBTQ issues, same sex marriage, etc. With a light touch they shared the firm conviction that inclusivity is the heart of Christianity; when you start excluding people, or stop loving people because of their sexuality, you have departed from the core of the gospel. (To which 5000 Presbyterian youth responded with thunderous applause).
After Petra got home, and we began processing her experience together I mentioned to her that several churches in our presbytery have stopped sending their youth to this conference, precisely because they perceive it to have an unacceptably liberal bias. And I confessed to her my tiny (unfounded) fears about her being exposed to theological conservatism.
I trusted Petra. Why can't the churches and parents who are theologically conservative trust their children?