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The elder cannot be an elder if there is no community to make [them]... an elder. The young child cannot feel secure if there is no elder, whose silent presence gives [them]... hope in life. The adult cannot be who [they are] unless there is a strong sense of the other people around. — M.P. Som?n Ritual Power, Healing, and Community (Portland, Oregon: Swan/Raven & Co., 1993)
While society tends to segregate people by age, our congregations can be places where multigenerational living and learning can happen. However, even here, multigenerational experiences may need to be intentionally appreciated, and sometimes created.
This session guides participants to identify their own age-related characteristics and interests as well as those common in people of other ages, from the very young to the very old. Then participants assess ways people from multiple age groups interact in the congregation and imagine new ways they could interact to better share and enjoy their different gifts.
The story "The Children's Crusade" provides a Civil Rights-era lens to examine different ways children and adults can contribute to a shared purpose. The story describes how schoolchildren joined protests in Birmingham, Alabama , in 1963, despite the concern of many adults.
If it is feasible to conduct this session with a number of guests of different ages and stages of life, we recommend it. All the activities can be done with a larger-than-usual, multigenerational group. To ensure a good representation of ages, you might schedule this session at a time that does not conflict with worship. Invite individuals personally; Leader Resource 1, Invitation to Participate, provides a sample letter. Confirm guests' attendance a day or so before the session.
This session will:
- Introduce the concept of multigenerational community, affirm it as reflective of our values as Unitarian Universalists, and demonstrate what it looks like
- Develop participants' sense that the age they are now is a point in their life's continuum
- Explore competencies that people of different ages tend to exhibit
- Teach about children's participation in civil rights protests as an example of people of different ages coming together to support and promote a community to which they belong; invite children to apply this lesson to the multigenerational possibilities of their Unitarian Universalist congregation
- Challenge participants to connect their faith to behavior in daily life.
- Learn about the role some children played in the Civil Rights Movement
- Articulate characteristics of different ages in life and define these as gifts
- Demonstrate understanding of multigenerational community by evaluating and designing congregational activities in terms of meaningful age-inclusiveness
- Add a representation of themselves in multigenerational community to their Window/Mirror panels
- Optional: Create expressions of pastoral concern with a multigenerational perspective to help people of different ages feel seen and welcomed in the congregation.