As a group from our church hiked in Canfield Meadow Woods this past Sunday, I thought about how grateful I was for the opportunity to be part of an inter-generational community. As we walked through the forest, folks helped me to identify flowers, trees and wildlife. We saw Jack-in-the-Pulpits, wild grape vines, Lady Slippers and a baby Snowy Owl. I was able to learn about plants that I normally would have walked right by!
The hike reminded me that church is one of the few places in society where people across generations can come together and learn from each other. FBC has been in the process of discerning how we might support youth and children in the shoreline community by looking at issues like hunger and poverty. I wonder if part of our discernment process is also about looking at how we might nurture inter-generational connections in our church and the world around us. How might we create space where the old and young and all those in-between might learn from each other?
One of the things I love about FBC is that it takes the question of inter-generational community seriously. I will never forget that the Sunday that I came to preaching my candidate sermon I had a little one come right up to me as I walked to the pulpit and greet me. People of all ages welcomed me and it warmed my heart.
There are times during a service when little ones are walking down the aisles or crawling on the floor. Folks will joke with me afterward about having to compete for attention with the little one, but I don’t see it that way at all. I remember on Christmas eve talking about Jesus as a little baby while there was a young one scooting down the aisle. I thought what a blessing it was to have a young one to help us remember what it was like to see baby Jesus in the flesh, to imagine Jesus scooting down synagogue aisles and saying hi to the people in the seats.
FBC also fosters inter-generational connection through its music. We have talented folks of all ages who participate in the service through our Choir, the Joyful Noise and the Bell Choir. It allows to celebrate a diversity of music that includes traditional hymns, lovely piano pieces, contemporary songs and the chimes of bells.
Our inter-generational connections nurture and feed us and give us joy! In our discernment process, we are invited to reflect deeper on how might we continue to deepen these connections. How might we deepen them in our church and our might we enhance them throughout the community?
Many of other churches are doing this same work of strengthening inter-generational ties. Here are some of the stories I have heard this week about what other churches have done:
-Instead of a children’s time, some churches have shifted to a time “For All God’s Children” that talks about stories, worship themes or topics like Baptism or Eucharist in a way that everyone can understand. Helps people of all ages grow in their faith journey. One church calls their time “Morsels and Stories” based on Psalm 78:1-4 (The Message):
“Listen, dear friends, to God’s truth, bend your ears to what I tell you.
I’m chewing on the morsel of a proverb; I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths,
Stories we heard from our fathers, counsel we learned at our mother’s knee.
We’re not keeping this to ourselves, we’re passing it along to the next generation—
God’s fame and fortune, the marvelous things God has done.”
-Created space for children and tots right in the worship space. Check out this church’s pray-ground: -Hosted inter-generational events and experiences. WE has an awesome curriculum for crafting such events: http://we.faithaliveresources.org/#/welcome-to-we
-Participated in relationship-building programs like the Boys and Girls Club or Big Brothers Big Sisters
-Made their boards more friendly for younger folks. One woman recently told me that she served as the youth-representative on her Deacon board growing up and it was a powerful experience for her. She is now serving as a pastor.
What thoughts, ideas, questions, concerns or dreams do you have to add to the conversation?
God of wonder, help us to listen to you, to each other and to the world around us, that we might discern the ways that you are calling us to grow on our faith journey. O God, still our minds and our bodies, that in the stillness we might see visions and dream dreams together. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.