One very important task for this team will be to provide a picture or profile of our membership. I am really excited about this part of the process. Perhaps it is the lazy anthropologist in me. Maybe I just -- and I do -- like data and spreadsheets and charts and all that demographic stuff.
There is something about "seeing" the information, clarifying distinctions, naming differences, and understanding who we are in ways other than those we gain from our intuition or experience.
For sure we are more than numbers and averages, more than categories and classes but knowing some of what we'll learn may help us to choose better and more readily become the church God is calling us to become.
This sort of information may surprise us. I remember when I first realized that the average Anglican wasn't like us at all. First I was told that Anglicanism, of which the Episcopal Church is the largest part in the states, is the second most dispersed Christian body on the planet.
Think "the empire on which the sun never sets."
Only Roman Catholics are in more places than Anglicans. Of course for every one Anglican there were probably 15 RC's but at least we were represented. It also surprised me to find out what was the "average Anglican."
This is from Gregory Cameron, now Bishop of the Diocese of St. Asaph in Wales, in his keynote address to the Anglican Covenant Conference at General Seminary in 2008:
‘The average Anglican is a black woman under the age of 30, who earns two dollars a day, has a family of at least three children, has lost two close relatives to AIDs, and who will walk four miles to Church for a three hour service on a Sunday.’You can't say this sort of thing without doing some research. Here's another insight from some other research:
In the next months we'll be gathering similar data in several ways. Please don't despair that we are digging a little and asking for information about each other's backgrounds and characteristics.
My intuition is that we are close to "average" for single Episcopal parishes in county seat towns in the southeastern U.S. But what are the other categories and classes that we fill and what are the numbers and averages that will provide us insight and vision and become food for our journey? Who are we?