I started writing this post a while ago, but am just now finishing it. "Today" was actually several weeks ago.
So today was what I have referred to in the past as "Archbishop Sunday"- the Sunday when the Archbishop visits to ordain new deacons and acolytes. My old church always had a new crop of young men ready to be acolytes and deacons, so Archbishop Sunday happens almost every year. At my new church, the deacons are mostly older men. This is not unique to this church, in fact, I have learned that the average age of deacons at my old church is way below average.
In the Armenian church, if I am not mistaken (and I know that priests occasionally read this blog, so if any of you want to correct me, feel free), becoming a deacon is considered something you would have a calling to do. In his message, the Archbishop mentioned that this year's theme for the diocese (and I cannot remember the exact theme, I am so sorry!) is related to vocations, and the diocese has a goal of getting more young men to become priests. In fact, his message focused almost entirely on men and getting them involved with the church.
I found myself thinking during this message "yes, yes, but what about getting women involved as well?" I have
posted in the past about my opinions on women in the church, and the bottom line is that I think that their involvement is crucial to the existence of the church. You can't have a church without priests, but in my opinion, you won't have any congregations without the women. And the young women aren't that involved, either! Some are, but on a broad level, they aren't. This past spring, I spent a morning making manti with a lot of the elderly ladies in my church (students have flexible schedules!). I was probably the youngest person there by at least 40 years, and one of the things that the other ladies were talking about were how uninvolved the young women (by "young" I mean women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, women with school-aged children, mostly) are in things like Ladies Guild, and when they come to Ladies Guild, they are coming mostly for the social activities, and they are not that interested in doing the grunt work of fundraising, bazaar organizing, etc.
It was interesting for me to hear this conversation. I think you could argue that they have a point, but also that times have changed since these women were raising their children. They pointed out that they LOVED Ladies Guild meetings because it was a welcome time to be with other women, and their husbands would watch the kids.
I personally am just as guilty of anyone else of not doing Ladies Guild, or much at all with the church except for going to service most Sundays and singing in the choir. I feel like I can see both sides here- yes, we need the grunt work that keeps the financial engines of the Armenian festivals and bazaars going, but on the other hand, women are pulled in a lot of different directions as well, and it's hard to commit to organizing something at church if you are also room mother for your child's class, working full- or part-time, managing your children's schedules (which often include ACYO and Armenian School, by the way!), and generally trying to keep the household running. I am pretty friendly with the woman who helps run Ladies Guild, and I think she is doing a great job of really trying to balance everything- make it fun and interesting for the younger ones to get them there, and respecting the wisdom of the older members and honoring them for their years of service. Unfortunately, I am not sure if either side thinks she is being successful. I do, but then, I don't go to Ladies Guild, so what do I know?
Anyway, I have to say that the Archbishop's speech sort of rubbed me the wrong way, because I think we need to get everyone involved in the spiritual (not just social) life of the church. Both men and women. I think when we get more young men and women coming to Badarak (on time) and participating in the service as acolytes, deacons, and choir members, we will naturally see more men choose to become priests, and the church will be better off overall.
A side point to this is: why don't Armenian churches have nurseries? Pretty much all the protestant churches that I have been to have nurseries for the babies while their parents are in service. At my old church near my university, if I had stayed there, I would have seriously considered trying to start up a nursery once a month so parents with kids too little for Sunday School could come to Badarak once a month. Are you just expected to bring your infant and toddler to Badarak? I could see that, but it doesn't always seem to be very convenient.