We’re a few weeks now into our new schedule which includes multigenerational worship at 11 am and both children’s and adult Religious Exploration (RE) classes starting at 12:15. It might seem a little confusing and uncomfortable as we adjust to all the changes, so I’d like to take a few moments to anchor all that is happening with our guiding principle of being multigenerational.
Those of us in the RE program see multigenerational as being more than just having the generations together in the same place at the same time. Following the theme of the Via Negativa, it might be easier to describe it by what multigenerational is not. It’s not simply having children in the sanctuary while the service is happening. It’s not merely tolerating a child’s need for movement or involvement. It’s not forgetting another generation’s need for quiet, intellectual space. It’s not overlooking another generation’s need to feel supported by and connected within a congregation.
True multigenerational worship is inclusive of and celebrates all ages and stages of human development. It is inclusive of the many ways that different ages prefer or are predisposed to engage with ideas and to interact with the elements of a service. Multigenerational worship aims to weave the various needs each age has while honoring the congregation as a whole. It means balancing the time and space we share with each other to accommodate needs for activity and needs for quiet contemplation.
So what does that look like? Well, let’s look at some of the things that have been happening during our recent services together. It includes involving the children throughout the service, giving them an active role or an opportunity to experience elements of worship; for example, during the Water Communion service, Rev. Carol invited the children to stand near and watch what happens when the Tibetan bowl sings while it is full of water. It looks like last Sunday, when Rev. Carol invited the congregation to sit in silence and contemplate her sermon on the Via Negativa, the empty space that was before us, and to eventually speak if any of us was so moved. It looks like doing a water meditation that invited everyone to participate in making different noises to mimic the variety of sounds rain makes. It is listening to different voices present readings throughout the service.
It is shared experiences on many different levels. It does not attempt to do all of these in every service; it is an awareness that finds its way each Sunday. Being multigenerational invites us to step out of our comfort zones and to try a new way of being together in worship that may not be our favorite way but might give us a sense of what someone of a different age values. Multigenerational is multidimensional and multisensory. It is allowing the expression of people at different stages of life to compose our shared story of place and meaning.
David Howell caught me after this Sunday’s service and read a fortune that he recently had found in a fortune cookie that spoke to the vulnerability it takes to step out and express and be who we really are. It immediately struck me that this sentiment pointed to the exact thing we are asking of ourselves and each other in our time here together at Westside. We are working to make space for each other, to hold space for each other, and to share space with each other.
We are all welcome here, just as we are. And we celebrate that each Sunday, sometimes in more subtle and sometimes in more overt ways. Multigenerational exchange is a wave of energy that ebbs and flows, sometimes giving, sometimes receiving, and always benefiting from the willingness to offer each at the times they are needed. Each of us is a lighthouse in this process; let that ‘little light of mine’ shine to reveal the way for all of us.