Episcopal kids are smart. It’s true, they are. There is something special about a child raised in an Episcopal church and also those who attend Episcopal schools. They are taught to think, reflect, ponder, question, believe, serve and love. They’re also observant. Very observant. I can’t change one thing in the church without one of our kids asking me what I did. They see and know our liturgy better than many adults. They can recite the various Eucharistic prayers, the creed, and many other common phrases and prayers. Our kids know when I change the proper preface; even though they don’t know it’s called a proper preface. (If you don’t know what it is, just look on the middle of the page 367 and then turn to page 377 in the prayer book)
But there is a downside to this “smartness” and it’s probably not the one you are thinking. Since Episcopal kids are observant, faithful, ask questions, and know the words and lifestyle of our faith, they use that as their measuring stick when looking at us adults. They listen to what we say, watch how we behave, and see how we treat others and then compare that to our shared faith and practice. Was it just me, or did you also feel a shiver go down your back?
A book about teens and their faith was published while I was in seminary. It was based on a comprehensive study of teens across all faith traditions. Christian teens that self-identify as Episcopalian scored quite well across the entirety of the test – from being able to elucidate their faith to actually participating and living it out. The teens of the Episcopal Church stood out and represented our particular faith tradition very well.
However, there is one question that they ranked near the top that does not sit well with Episcopal adults. The question was about how well their parents live out their faith tradition. We ranked near the top of all faith traditions of not living our lives like what we profess with our lips. Ouch.
I attended a symposium with the authors the book. During the question and answer section, the Episcopal contingent asked for some clarity around that painful response from our own children. Luckily, the authors let us off the hook a bit. They said that if teens of other Christian traditions knew their own faith tradition, specifically the baptismal covenant, as well as the Episcopal teens do there would be very little difference between the Episcopal parents and the parents of the other traditions. It felt like a backhanded compliment. The good news, our kids know our faith. The not-so-good news, it is visible to them when we don’t live up to what we profess.