I have long believed that one of the great gifts the church has to offer is that it is one of the few places in our lives today that or can be truly inter-generational. At church gatherings small children can find surrogate uncles, aunts and grand-parents. At the same time adults can find surrogate nieces, nephews and grandchildren. Church life can provide chances for young to learn from old and old to learn from young. That is these things can happen if we let them, if we help them.
So how do we create an environment that enables a truly inter-generational church? What does it mean to have a place that is truly friendly to seniors, middle-agers, young adults, teens, children, and pre-schoolers? Can we make all feel welcome and at home?
In some ways this is simple. In some ways it it incredibly difficult. For now though, let's pretend only the first sentence is true.
To create that environment all we have to do is set aside time and space in our gatherings where the needs of all to be named and met. Where it gets complicated is that we also need to find that time and space inside the same physical and temporal boundaries. That is to say that even when we are all in the same building (or even the same room) during the same hour we find the time and space for our varying needs. We have to find ways to accommodate people whose hearing is fading and find background noise highly distracting and also young children who need to move around and explore their environment (which tends to make noise). We have to find ways to let different musical and liturgical tastes be expressed in our worship. We have to find ways to allow those who need to run/dance/bounce around the building (sometimes without paying really close attention to who else is around or who is moving where) do so safely with those who have mobility or balance or vision limitations. We have to find ways to allow people to express their needs openly and hear the needs being expressed by others. We have to find the balance point if and when those needs conflict. Really, that is all we need to do.
Well not quite all. We also have to pause and ask if our use of resources (including money and personnel and energy) states openly that we are trying to be welcoming to all ages. And in that line I have 2 opportunities. One is that hopefully one Sunday in May a willing volunteer (yet to be named) will take over service leadership after the sermon so that I may go downstairs and spend time with the Sunday School and/or Youth Group. This is an idea I shared last year during my interview. I was called to minister with all of the people of St. Paul's and part of doing that is spending time with different groups. The other is a really BIG opportunity for service.
Last fall the Conference Youth and Young Adult Ministry Committee asked if St. Paul's would consider playing host to the Junior High Rally in March 2012. The Council discussed it and said that yes we would. This means that a couple hundred young people and their leaders will take over this building for a weekend next March. Other churches have said that hosting these event is a transformational experience. However it is a lot of work as well. WE need people to work on food, people to organize First Aid coverage, people to help with keeping the washrooms clean and stocked, someone to arrange workshops (and people to lead them), people to help with transportation, hosts/hostesses, supervisors/chaperones for overnight (so the leadership team can sleep) and others. We will be looking for help from all of you. This is a great way to fill the building with energy, to support the work of the larger church, and to remind some of those people from Southern Alberta that there is great life up here north of the Yellowhead highway.
As a congregation committed to nurturing the faith of all generations we continue to move forward, laying the foundations for those who will one day celebrate the 125th anniversary of St. Paul's!