Ministry Across the Generations
General Assembly 2009 Event 2036
UU University Multigenerational Track, Part I
Facilitators: The Rev. Parisa Parsa, Minister; and Robin Barraza, Director of Religious Education, First Parish Church, Milton, MA.
Program deans Parisa Parsa and Robin Barazza introduced themselves and their conference planning team* as religious professionals committed to a ministry to the whole church community. During introductions, Greg Buckland clarified the focus of this ministry when he answered the question “Why call it multigenerational?” "In a conscious change of terminology from 'inter,' meaning separate entities encountering each other across a divide," he said, "to 'multi,' meaning many, a multiplicity of people, learning to be together, learning to share their own gifts. This track explores the necessity and possibilities in the spiritual practice of engaging all ages, child, youth, adult, and elder. This spiritual task should be central to the life of the church. Intergenerational worship has often been perceived as child centric."
In a departure from most traditional workshops, this Unitarian Universalist (UU) University track engaged the attendees in experiential and interactive learning. Designed as a series of multigenerational worship services, the sessions underscore the many different voices in each human community, the many ways to find and create meaning, the many stories that come together to create one story, the story of the church, the story of many generations in transformative and transforming work.
The message of the first session/worship service, "Telling Our Story: The Creation of Paradise," could be summarized in the chorus of the closing song:
“We are our grandmother’s prayers
We are our grandfather’s dreamings
We are the breath of our ancestors
And we are the spirit of God”.
Using readings, music, visuals, storytelling and sermon, this worship service described the magic of physics, chemistry and biology that resulted in this room of people on this earth today. Through our shared creation story, we are linked to a monumental history of trial and error, unintended successes and, through those, to all life and to each other. The sharing of stories and personal narratives in congregational life is necessary for creating commonality and understanding differences across the generations.
In the second session/worship service, "Barriers and Brokenness," the participants split into generational groupings, sharing their iconic songs and dance techniques, and emblematic qualities of silence. After the opening, they heard from speakers who had recent memories of their growing-up years, and from an older member sharing their perspective of congregational life and its challenges to creating the multigenerational community.
During one testimonial, Victoria Mitchell described her Mormon upbringing and the inherent inclusion of all ages in the values and structure of the worship service and religious education programs. While she didn't think it perfect, she valued the multigenerational practices of music and ritual which brought all ages together. She also reflected on the sense of age segregation and isolation she experienced as a Unitarian Universalist. She asked Unitarian Universalists to weave ages together in hope and healing.
Speaker Greg Buckland assured the gathering that “youth and adults want the same things from each other” That we want to hear from each other that we can stay alive in hope, creativity and passion. “We need all of us... together.”
Several attendees said that they came looking for ideas for intergenerational worship service, and ended up having a really good time. There were times for them to learn through play and silliness, and times for them to reflect, with music and silence and words.
*Greg Buckland, Mass Bay District Youth and Young Adult Coordinator; the Rev. Michelle Favreault, Visiting Faculty, Starr King School for the Ministry; the Rev. Shanna Lynngood, Associate Minister, All Souls Church, Unitarian, Washington, DC; Victoria Mitchell, Associational/Continental Youth Council Representative; Gail Forsythe-Vail, Unitarian Universalist Association Adult Programs Director; Bev Smrha, Lay Leader, Oakland, CA; Connie Jahrmarkt, Credentialed Music Director, and Eric Dawson, Ministerial Intern, First Parish Church, Milton MA.
Reported by Rebecca Kelley-Morgan; edited by Bill Lewis.