This article is written by Bishop David L. Moyer,
Rector of Good Shepherd Church, Rosemont, Pennsylvania.
I did plenty of foolish and reckless things when I was an adolescent, which I believe is fairly normal for a teenager. There were some elements, upon reflection, that kept me from doing really over-the-top foolish and reckless things – things that would have harmed others and their property, and caused communal chaos and fear.
Number one is that I wasn’t angry at God, my parents, or society. My relationship with God consisted of going to church and being an altar boy. I knew my parents loved and cared for me, and were heavily invested in my present and future. I knew if I did something very foolish, they would punish me severely, and be very disappointed in me. I was taught by the Church and my parents to respect teachers, coaches, the clergy, the police, and the elderly.
I was expected to be productive and to work when not involved with school activities, and certainly to have a summer job. I was given what I needed, but never to the point of indulgence. For example, it took six years of Christmas mornings to receive a full set of drums, rather than having a set plunked down before me.
It was impressed upon me by the Church and my parents that God was always watching me, and that I certainly should not offend Him; and that there were eternal consequences of rebelling against God’s will.
Did some of you experience similar things, and have such elements of what is outside you, remain with you?
As an Anglican bishop, I quite naturally have an emotional and intellectual connection to England. Beyond church history, I have deep fraternal connections and affections with a number of priests and laity in the UK in my capacity in what is called an “Episcopal Visitor” for the Traditional Anglican Church in Britain. I travel at least twice a year to minister to them.
What we see in England, and what we saw recently in the “flash mob” incidents in Philadelphia, is symptomatic of a major breakdown of moral values and behavior due to the failure of churches and parents. The Church is led by humans and parents are human. Being a Church leader, a father, and a grandfather, I attest to this. But it is clear to me that churches and other religious institutions and parents are asleep at the switch.
Isn’t it high time for churches and parents to do some serious self-examination and soul-searching here and abroad, expressed in the Anglican liturgical tradition in this way: “We have erred and strayed from thy ways as lost sheep, … we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us.”
I believe very deeply that the provision of the elements I was given as a child and adolescent would be salutary; and some heartfelt contrition and repentance that leads to a renewed sense of purpose would foster healing and reconnections that would be constructive and beneficial for our children and our children’s children.