I’m the only millennial at church on Sunday. Here’s why I go
By Mikki Cusack
On a recent visit to Mass, I looked around the congregation and noted that here in the parish at 10am on a Sunday, I was an anomaly.
Dressed in faded jeans, a T-shirt and a leather jacket — 32 years of lines on my face — I was the only (borderline) millennial in the crowd.
Likely, my fellow 20- or 30-somethings were at brunch, in bed, or in the park with their kids.
The Church is losing touch with Generation Y. If they lose us, what hope do they have with Generation Z? After all, nearly a third of Australia stated in the last Census they had “no religion”.
Mass — the new digital detox?
While I am a believing Catholic who baptised my son in a Catholic church, it was unusual for me to show up at a traditional Sunday sermon.
But in a world that is loud and busy, I found Mass almost therapeutic. A time without technology to quiet my mind.
The homily by the local priest seemed more like an open discussion on current social issues.
The singing I found inclusive and inspiring.
Sure, some of the hymns made me cringe, but so does the misogyny in A$AP Rocky’s lyrics.
There are many parts of the bible I do not agree with, but should this stop me from having faith at all?
But first, these things must change
But like a lot of young people, my relationship with the church isn’t as simple as enjoying mass. What I expect the Church to stand for isn’t always borne out in reality. Its reputation has been under a cloud, particular in terms of dealing with the horrific child abuse crisis.
Other generations have asked these questions as well, but perhaps my generation can help push for change on these six important issues.
- Celibacy. Priests should have the option to marry and have families if they choose. Marriage, love and sex are natural. I can’t foresee parishioners caring whether their local priest has a wife to go home to.
- Female deacons. Why can’t we have them? Romans 16:1-16 refers to a woman deacon named Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchrea. A calling to faith for a man or woman should be treated the same.
- Sex education. The Church needs to accept it, along with birth control. It should not be frowned upon: generations have used birth control now.
- Wealth. The Church needs a public relations overhaul in their representation of wealth. While we are eager to mock the Church’s wealth and perceived greed, little spotlight is shone on Caritas, the umbrella organisation for Catholic aid agencies.
- Science. It’s not the enemy of religion. Spoiler alert: evolution is real and Adam and Eve is about temptation. It doesn’t — and shouldn’t — mean you have to disregard the theory of evolution.
- Inclusion, not exclusion. The Church should recognise the law and that we can marry whomever we choose. Divorcees should also be allowed to receive communion.
Faith is worth fighting for
The Church has been scrutinised in current times — with good reason — but if we fix the fundamental issues, perhaps then we can focus on what positive elements the Church brings.
The Church operates schools, orphanages and hospitals around the world. There are plenty of small-scale charitable missions that help local communities that deserve the spotlight.
Pope Francis rejects clericalism, and is working toward a more understanding and forward-thinking religion.
Religion is a guiding star for many people — an inclusive place where you can find yourself and help others.
Without religion is there enough to guide the next generation’s moral compasses?
If faith declines, will the next generations pursue nihilism and a “nothing matters” attitude?
Without critical changes to how the Church is operating, we may be forced to find out.
The Church can represent community and wisdom again if only we would take the time to pause, reflect and have a say.
Faith may be questioned, even disregarded at times, but there is a certain beauty in having something impalpable to turn to in life.
That’s why for me — notwithstanding a busy social schedule and family commitments — the Sunday sermon is something I will attend again.
Mikki Cusack is a Sydney writer.