St. John’s struggles with a problem familiar to many churches. The congregation at St. John’s has dwindled and aged while the community that the church exists in has changed dramatically in completely new ways. Once more affluent and predominately Caucasian, Norristown is increasingly multicultural and has a higher poverty rate than neighboring areas. While I am not an expert on the ins and outs of religious affiliation, these facts point out that St. John’s lost its relevance within the community. Once the community began to change, St. John’s stopped seeing as many new families join the church and as time went on, the already established families within the church grew older and the kids went off to college or moved away from home. Fewer and fewer children were among the congregation until we reach present day, in which St. John’s has almost no youth and no youth programs.
I realized this fact as soon as I began my year here in Norristown and I wanted to do something that would change this reality. In a situation like this, however, a slow start is not an option. Many churches have Sunday school or a youth group for children but starting a program of that type would never get off the ground. Any new program at St. John’s must be big enough and exciting enough to draw the attention of parents in the community. It must appeal to the children, but also fulfill a need for the parents.
As a member of Servant Year, a program run by the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, I find out about the Diocesan programs and events that are the benefit of existing not in isolation but in a supportive network of churches that work together under the Diocese. When I heard about the City Camp program, I knew it was my ticket to reaching the youth of Norristown.
My hope for Camp St. John is just that. My hope is that the community will be open to our invitation and send children to the enriching, safe, loving environment that we cannot wait to provide. It seems strange to me that a desire to help the community like St. John’s has can go unfulfilled because of a disconnect between the church and the community. However, this is the case. The community has changed and the church has to reintroduce itself in a relevant way in order to reconnect. This camp is our opportunity to do that.
Karitsa's Ministry Placement is as Outreach Coordinator at St. John's Episcopal Church in Norristown.