Last Sunday my regular Sunday school class was looking kind of slim; it was mothers day and the university graduation had happened the day before, meaning many students had skipped town already. Instead of doing our usual formal study, we sat around a table with coffee and engaged in some non-directed chatter. We talked as you tend to with such a group: told stories, told about what we learned from our experiences. After a little while, I was struck by the range of experiences and ages present.
One of our members was there for the first time after giving birth to her first child. Her mother was sitting nearby, holding the baby. Two other couples who had kids around my age reassured my friend that her baby was totally normal, and her parenting techniques were fine, and delivered parenting wisdom. One of our pastors joined after a while, he’s been married for less than a year. He told us about how earlier that week he had performed his first outdoor marriage ceremony, and his wife helped him get over his anxiety by reminding him to be humble. I was mostly quiet (hard to believe for those who know me) but learned a lot of things.
We talked about worship leading, and how sometimes a service that you thought was mediocre, from behind a guitar or a pulpit or from the perspective of things running smoothly, really touched someone else. We talked about the way God’s spirit works through our own weakness.
I realized after this conversation that I would have missed so much richness if I had been in a singles group or a twenties and thirties group. Even though I don’t have any children and don’t plan to anytime soon, I was glad to be a part of a discussion about infants, I learned things that I might use some day, and I learned about the lives of those people. More importantly, had I missed that moment, I would have missed the wisdom from people who have walked with God much longer than me. I really value these intergenerational relationships that I have at church. I worry that others are missing out on these opportunities by only spending time with their peers.
Of course, one anecdote isn’t enough to motivate an overhaul in church structure, but here is what became clear to me from this experience: having relationships with people at different places in life helps me prepare better for transitions, and it gives me a broader view of my own problems. Talking about my friend’s baby didn’t make me feel bad about being single and childless (if anything I was grateful that my life wasn’t changing so radically right now). It made me feel grateful to be a part of a community that supports and encourages each other regardless of where they are in life. And talking about other people’s lives and families made my anxiety about finishing my semester papers seem less earth-shattering.
How has intergenerational community enriched your spiritual life? Would you leave your smaller demographic study groups (single women, pre-teens, whatever) at church for a intergenerational one?