I have four nieces and being an aunt is the best! I read to them, push them on the swings, take them out for ice cream. While I love just hanging out with them, I often feel this nagging responsibility to teach them – to say please and thank you, to share, to read, write and count – and to prepare them for all the things they might encounter in life. More than anything, my prayer is that they will know they are loved not only by their family, but by the God who created them.
We all have hopes and dreams for our families, whether for nieces and nephews, children, or grandchildren – or even parents, aunts, uncles, or grandparents. We can think about our church family in the same way. Generally speaking, we hope our church will be kind and welcoming. But there is a deeper desire to share the love of God in the St. Michael’s community. Each Sunday, the Coffee Hour team prepares a special tray of cookies and lemonade for the children; teenage acolytes lead the procession to bring Communion to members with limited mobility; children enthusiastically hand flowers to moms and grandmas on Mother’s Day. This is unique and wonderful. The young serve the old; and the old serve the young. They talk to one another, eat together, play together, and worship together. We enjoy being around each other, and desire the best for one another, regardless of age.
Research shows intergenerational relationships benefit older adults by enhancing socialization, encouraging life-long learning, increasing emotional support and improving health. Youth and children also experience many benefits: greater social skills, decreased negative behavior, and increased stability. For a community, fostering intergenerational relationships dispels stereotypes, conserves historical and cultural traditions, inspires collaboration, and promotes a sense of personal and societal identity.* The more we interact with people of different generations, the stronger our community becomes.
In a culture that increasingly self-segregates by age, we must continue to actively choose to be an intergenerational parish. St. Michael’s members may span in age, but proximity does not automatically lead to relationships. People of different generations often have diverse life experiences, values, and interests.
It can be difficult to talk to people with whom you feel you have nothing in common. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another ‘What! You too?’” The good news is that we all share at least one thing, whether we lived through World War II, or are too young to remember 9/11. The next time you stand to recite the Nicene Creed, look around – we all share a faith in Christ. Through Baptism, we have become adopted sons and daughters of God. We have become a family!
From Psalm 145:4, “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” We have countless opportunities to do just that every week. I would urge each of us to prayerfully consider the role we play in this community. You may attend a play or sporting event a parishioner is in. You may ask an empty-nester how their children are doing. You may visit a homebound senior. I don’t know what it will look like for you, but I do know that we are all called to be a part of this family – old and young alike.
To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:21
Written by Becky Gleason, Children’s Minister, and was published in the Summer 2016 “Messenger”.