CLERGY CORNER: Uniting the generations

Posted on 15 June 2017 by LeslieM

In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”(Acts 2:17 and Joel 2:28 NRSV)

On Pentecost Sunday, we read Acts 2, as we always do, and heard Peter quote Joel 2:28 in his message to the pilgrims at Jerusalem. Among the many things I loved about his words, or Joel’s words, or God’s word, to be more exact, was the intergenerational vision of the church. Recognizing the gifts of the elderly and the young, the Holy Spirit definitely saw generations as interdependent. And, I have to say, there is a growing recognition within my denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, that cross-generational ministry is God’s vision for the church.

That being said, this wasn’t the way it has always been. I may have exacerbated that problem by some of the actions I took, not by accident, but very much on purpose. I separated the worship service into two. One service I called “traditional” and the other service I called “contemporary.” One service was a little more liturgical with the organ being the primary instrument. The second service was a little less liturgical and included guitars, drums, keyboards and singers. Naturally, I envisioned the older members would attend the “traditional” and the younger members would attend the “contemporary.” Every once in awhile, we would create cross-generational events, such as picnics, potlucks and, of course, the annual meeting.

At first, everybody fell in line with their age appropriate service. Peaceful coexistence and cooperation was maintained. But, as time went on, surprises started to occur.

The first surprise came with two elderly members who stopped attending the “traditional” worship service because they were, in their words, tired of the hymns. They liked guitars and drums, and they appreciated being surrounded by younger members.

At first, I thought that this was not going to end well. How would the young members receive them? Some chose the contemporary service specifically because of the younger population and now my service was beginning to “gray.” Well, as surprises go, the young people loved this couple. In fact, when the husband died, my 18-year-old daughter was beside herself in grief. His funeral was well-attended by the members of the youth group and the Praise Band played the music. His wife was delighted.

The second surprise came with a young family that attended the “traditional” service. The three young kids were all elementary age and the husband and wife were actually quite a bit younger than me. After the service was over, I took them aside and assured them that we had younger members and they attended the “contemporary” service. Looking back at this, I am ashamed to admit it. But the wife smiled and said, “Thanks, we prefer this service.”

Later, when the family attended the new member class, the wife shared what she appreciated about the church. She said, “With my parents in Illinois and my husband’s parents in Washington, we knew our kids would miss out not having their grandparents around. But the people we worship with are like grandparents to my children and we love it.”

As time went by, the contemporary service started to age and the traditional service started to get younger. The ages became less relevant and the services really distinguished themselves by style alone, as opposed to age preference.

One of the many things I love about Zion is that the young and older members truly do love each other. I may explore different styles of worship, but not to separate the ages. And I am exploring a Sunday School curriculum that is cross-generational in nature.

The Holy Spirit surprised the disciples, who spoke in different languages to the pilgrims who travelled to Jerusalem on Pentecost. The way the Holy Spirit chose to speak was in a manner that honored the diversity of cultures. Each heard the message in the language they spoke. And what was the message they heard? It was a cross-generational message honoring the elderly and the young.

May we be surprised by the Spirit and may those walls that separate the ages come tumbling down.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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