Were you there? Did you see what I saw? Because what I saw this past Sunday evening was a glimpse of the Beloved Community!
Last Sunday evening we gathered as a community to go deeper into our Lenten experience. Our youth led us in thinking about what it would look like to fast from our busyness and burnout and feast on Sabbath. I will be honest, the fact that our youth have something to say about busyness and burnout makes me a little sad. We live in a culture that glorifies the busy and over committed, and our youth have learned that from us. I pray that we all learned a little bit about Sabbath and some Sabbath practices from them.
While their topic spoke to my soul and was in and of itself enough, I saw and celebrated so much more on Sunday evening. I saw tables of people that included the young and old in conversation with one another. Our youth praise band led us in opening worship, sharing their gifts of music with all (and I hope as Lent progresses more of us will join in and sing with them!). I saw young people of varying ages share their gifts and support one another in their leadership. I saw the fruits of what our youth spent several weeks planning completely by themselves. I saw young people tackle a topic that should be beyond their years and I saw older people willing to play and be a little silly. Again, for me, it was a glimpse of a beloved community where all are listened to, valued and loved.
I grew up in a small church where, aside from Sunday School, generations mixed for many activities. Having grown up two or more hours away from my grandparents, I had many grandparent-types in my life. I can still see their faces and I know their presence in my life has made it much richer. This is something I want for my own child.
Unfortunately, over the years church has become very siloed – classes divided by age, the children and youth off in another part of the building from the adults. Even adult classes divided by ages and stages. Yes, there is some benefit to connecting with people who are going through some of the same things as you, AND there is benefit in being in community with those who have already been through those stages and have wider perspective. This is why we, as a staff, have worked to foster more intergenerational activities in recent years, because we know we have so much to learn from one another.
But did you know there is scientific evidence for the benefits of multi-generational interactions? I won’t bore you with it all, but the benefit goes both directions. Older generations who spend time in community with children and youth report to have fewer cases of dementia and a more active life; and young people who have relationships with older generations tend to be more well-rounded and “successful.”
Margaret Mead, the American cultural anthropologist stated, “Connections between generations are essential for the mental health and stability of a nation.”
Thank you, church, for valuing ALL generations in our midst. We are more complete because of it! And if you haven’t signed up for our Sunday evening Lenten dinners and study, it’s not too late! Please come join us for our Lenten experience through March 29, 2020. Each week will be a little different, but for at least part of the evening it will be a place where children, youth, and adults of all ages will gather together and be in community with one another!