By Aoife Barrington-Haber
“What would a truly multigenerational congregation look like? It would be the ultimate committee of the whole: a community in which everyone is seen as teacher and learner; in which every age and stage of life is equally valued and equally supported by whatever tangible and intangible resources the community has to offer. “
UU Religious Educator and Author, Judith Frediani
UU’s don’t like to admit this, but our current progressive faith is strongly rooted in the 17th and 18th century Anglo protestant practices. While the theology of the time did teach of a loving, forgiving god and encouraged free thought, these ideas were communicated through high-falutin’ intellectual sermons that probably taxed the attention-spans of even the most literate adult members.
Children, meanwhile, were considered to be miniature adults, expected to do chores as soon as they could lift a bucket, and were considered capable of sitting still in church for just as long as the adults (or else!). At the same time, however, they supposedly possessed empty minds ready to be stuffed full of knowledge.
Some kind soul finally took pity on the children and recognized that they were better suited to be learning religion in a separate, child-centered setting, ie, Sunday School; and thank goodness they did! What began as instruction in “principles of the gospel, as the best means to inspire them with the love of virtue, and to promote in them good manners, and habits of industry and sobriety,” has evolved into a multicultural, multimodal program faith exploration. Even in my lifetime, UU religious education has developed in leaps and bound, recognizing and honoring the many different learning styles and abilities of our young folk.
But this early notion of age-segregation still lingers, causing many churches to suffer from the mentality of “Upstairs Church/Downstairs Church.” Worship is seen as the basic spiritual food for the adults, while RE is for meant for children. Both are wonderful! But does this separation go against the values that our teachers teach and our ministers preach?
The more we challenge ourselves to break out of restrictive, traditional ways of thinking about ourselves, the more we succeed in living our UU principles of acceptance, inclusion, interconnection and justice. Just as we, as a faith community, are expanding our knowledge of race as more than Black/White, of gender as more than She/He, we need to examine the idea of age or generation as far more than Adult/Child. While our congregation offers many wonderful inter- and multi-generational activities, we can always be doing more to work against this outdated mode of thinking and “doing church.”Our church family includes babies, children, tweens, teens, young adults, middle-agers, empty-nesters, and seniors, each group with its own set of needs and gifts to offer. The more we include and interact with each other, the better we can know, support and learn from each other.
With this in mind, I encourage everyone, from grade 1 through adult of any age, to participate in our January-February class, Honoring Mother Earth, an exploration of our 7th UU Principle through the lens of Native American spirituality and culture. Through traditional stories, art work, poetry, movement and music, we will learn about the diversity of Native American cultures, as well as the unifying beliefs that say, “Mitakuye Oyasin”- We are all connected.
Adults and Sr Youth are invited to simply participate as learners, or to sign up as leaders for a particular day. See Aoife or Donna Morin to sign up.
* Spirit Play classes will continue for Pre-K, with no class on 1/17.
* January 17th will be a Chalice Chapel, a mixed-age gathering for ages 5 and up, with the assistance of the Sr Youth members.