A Vision of Multigenerational Community

Excerpts from the June 21 worship service “What Have You Learned?”

In her book Woman on the Edge of Time, Marge Piercy writes of a utopian society, and one of the practices there was for the elderly to spend the day with the children. One person explains,

We believe old people and children are kin. There’s more space at both ends of life. That closeness to birth and to death makes a common concern with big questions and basic patterns. We think old people, because of their distance from the problems of their own growing up, hold more patience and can be quieter to hear what children want. Not everyone who teaches the young is old—we all teach. The kids work with us. We try to share what we have learned and what we don’t know…

I have always loved that vision of multigenerational community as part of a utopian future.

One of the joys for me of our community, and the particular joy of our monthly multigenerational service, is the joy of knowing this is one of the few places in our culture where different age groups come together. Our culture is highly segregated by age, and church is one of the few places where young and old and everyone in between come together.

There is comfort in being with our peer groups, of course. We like to be with people our own age, people who have lived through the same events we have, people who have watched the same TV shows and movies, who grew up listening to the same music. There is good support to be found when we are with people who are like us.

But we also—no matter our age—we also benefit from being with people older than we are and being with people who are younger than we are. We look to our elders for wisdom and guidance, knowing that we can learn from their experiences. Someone recently told me that knowing elders here at Chalice has given her a vision of growing older that is dynamic and exciting.

And we also benefit from being with people younger than us, for whom we can be guides, and people whose outlook on the world is fresh and new, informed by new technologies and experiences. It is younger generations that often lead needed change in the world, and as we get older, we often need to be reminded that change is possible and worth fighting for.

In multigenerational community, each of us has much to TEACH other generations and each of us has much to LEARN from other generations.

The vibrancy of our multigenerational community depends on our willingness to reach across generational lines, to step outside our comfort zones, and to help ensure ours is not just a thriving community for this generation, but for many generations to come.

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