Last weekend fifty-six of us gathered in the magnificent Alleghenies for our second annual Fall Retreat. Traveling 2.5 hours away to Millboro Springs, Va. provided a wonderful opportunity for our busy flock to slow down and spend some much appreciated quality time together. As I look back at the photographs I can’t help but to be struck by the new norm that God is establishing among us. Not all that long ago, we would have not considered a multi-generational retreat as a viable option.
The Church-at-large, for many years now, has established a practice of separating the flock by age bracket. Each group would be given a different corner of the building and it would be quite rare for any of those groups to leave their corners and/or integrate. We moved in this direction, into the corners, under the assumption that we can better educate and equip by customizing our church education programs with age appropriate lessons and events. The same was true of worship. Children, once old enough to leave the nursery corner, would be brought into the sanctuary so that they could sit quietly in worship and watch the adults lead by example. The model makes sense in many ways. In theory, we start in shallow water with the littlest among us and swim into deeper water with each passing year. For many decades this approach to church organization made sense. However, at some point along the way, the “next” generation found themselves without a corner to call home. Our teenagers grew up, as they often do, and graduated themselves out of the church. The Church-at-large found herself in a state of crisis as once bustling corners of their buildings began to empty out. First it was the youth corner, then the children’s wing, and so on and so on. To this day there are many churches that don’t bother to turn the lights on in those quiet corners.
When I look at the group photo we took at last weekend’s retreat, I see a church family establishing a new norm. When I look into the Sanctuary, on any given Sunday, I see a a malleable, organic, living/breathing organization embracing her new identity. Lately, when I try to articulate this new norm, I find myself repeatedly using words like inter-generational and inter-cultural. We are still spending time in the corners and that’s o.k. However, God is clearly calling each generation to the center…..together. God is using each of us, young and old alike, to re-create the church and I am grateful to each of you for your willingness to participate in the inspiring process.
Hope to see you on Sunday.
Yours in Christ,
Sterling W. Severns