With just under a month to my 38th birthday, it's still gratifying to be called a 'young vicar' occasionally, as I was on Saturday morning. Trouble is, I'm not a young vicar. 38 is not young. It's younger than the average vicar, but I'm aware of increasing age (altogether now, aaaaaah), and quite worried about the lack of folk younger than myself in church leadership.
Earlier this week was in conversation with another church leader about the difficulty of bringing younger leaders through, especially if you have an established leadership with established ways of doing things. Yesterday morning I was in Wells Cathedral for the welcome of Peter Maurice as Bishop of Taunton (since Peter Price is Bishop of Bath and Wells, it's getting a bit confusing already). Great bloke, and he'll be a fantastic bishop. Reflecting on the age of leaders - among all the copes, mitres and CofE notables assembled at the front I don't think there was anyone under 40.
Then yesterday afternoon at St. Peters hall there was 'Urban Warrior' Stacey, calmly organising the Youth Cafe development and it feels that the project is in safe, and young, hands.
I'm not campaigning for an overthrow of people with more skill, wisdom and experience just for some cult of 'youth'. But I am concerned that we don't move the goalposts on what constitutes 'young' leaders. The Anglican Church has done this with membership, in an attempt to keep our figures above 1 million - the original goalposts were the number attending on any given Sunday, now its the number attending on Sundays, plus any weekday services, and soon it'll be the number of individuals who attend at any time in the month. I hope the goalposts on age don't do the same. If we start thinking that young leaders are people about my age, then that will be very sad. We need leaders in their 20's and younger, and we need to trust them, and I say that to myself as much as to anyone else...