Category Archives: Older Adults

Common Ground

As the Formation and Vocation Ministries Team continues to explore how we can empower ministries that bridge generation gaps, we are frequently blessed with stories of amazing transformation. Episcopal News Service correspondent Sharon Sheridan recently authored a story of an initiative in Alaska that demonstrates the power of finding common ground across generations, institutions, communities, and cultures.

“They say music’s a universal language. To the Rev. Belle Mickelson of the Diocese of Alaska, it’s also a healer and community builder.” – excerpt from ENS Correspondent Sharon Sheridan’s story

Photo from ENS story courtesy of Dancing with the Spirit

Click here to connect with the powerful story of transformation through music in which Mickelson has been a catalyst for invitation, inspiration, and transformation by discerning that amazing place where discernment leads to the good and right use of giftedness, passion, collaboration, and need.

Please join in our prayers of praise and gratitude for Mickelson’s faithfulness in following her call, and Sheridan’s faithfulness in sharing the story so that we all might be moved to find common ground to bridge the gaps that separate us from God and from one another.

If you have a story of transformation through bridging gaps, we want to help you share it. Please submit your story ideas to our team’s social media consultant Wendy@EpiscopalCommunications.com with “Episcopal Generations” in the subject line of your submission.

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Elders + Youngers with Desmond Tutu

Every now and then we run actross an intersting article or blog post that fits perfectly with the themes of the Episcopal Generations Project. Today Archbishop Desmond Tutu is featured at HuffPost Green.We encourage you to check it out. Describing himself as one of the “Elders,” he said the following about some of the “Youngers:”

Their positive vision and relentless energy fills me with hope. I want to believe that the next generation of leaders will be bolder, more global in their outlook and more committed to making decisions for the common good, rather than the short-sightedness and narrow interests we have witnessed in the last 20 years.

Click here to read the entire post.

We encourage Elders and Younger in congregations across the Episcopal Church to engage inter-generational dialogue like this, discussing how you and your congregation live the Marks of Mission.

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Creativity

On the day God created humanity, he made them to resemble God

– Genesis 5:1 Common English Bible

Human creativity leads to innovation. Innovation leads us to doing things differently. When we cease to think creatively, we no longer innovate, and our progress is arrested. Stagnate is the next word that comes to mind, or maintenance mode. Then the inevitable phrase , “But we’ve always done it that way.” And now we are truly stuck for a time in a comfortable space, until attrition and boredom set in and all of a sudden we are in survival mode. Our next tendency is to desperately try to re-create something that used to work, hoping it will work again, stifling real creativity that may lead to innovation.

I heard a very compelling comment, once upon a time, from my friend and colleague Emily Slichter Given. As she was addressing a room full of church leaders she proclaimed, “If all you’re doing is maintenance and there is no creativity, please go do it somewhere else. You’re killing the church.” It was a bold and brilliant statement. And I took it to heart when I heard it three years ago. I invite you to heed her words as well. It’s time to find the colorful pencils and sharpen them, at least metaphorically speaking.

As the Formation and Vocation Ministries Team continues to explore the notion of Episcopal Generations and bridging gaps, we’re inviting you to identify the gaps in your faith communities, and then engage creative discernment to address the challenge. How are you going to bridge the gap? During a recent workshop at the Forming Disciples conference in the Diocese of Texas we recognized that bridging gaps can be challenging and often presents a conflict when addressed. We agreed that when conflict is well-managed, remembering that we are called to respect the dignity of every human being, it can provide a rich environment in which we can be creative and even innovative. But the facilitation must be balanced so that all passions and concerns are heard, discussed, and addressed, grounded in faith and trust.

A study of Exemplary Youth Ministry noted that “churches who are deeply influencing the faith lives of young men and women (have) a culture of the whole church that is most influential in nurturing youth of vital Christian Faith. The genius of these churches seems best described as a systemic mix of theology, values, people, relationships, expectations, and activities. It appears that a culture of the Spirit emerges with its pervasive and distinct dynamics and atmosphere that is more powerful than its component parts.” (The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry, EYM Publishing, St. Paul, MN, 2010) From the same study it has also been noted that “Culture is transmitted from one generation to the next through language, material objects, ritual, institutions, and art.”

The workshop participants considered these findings and also spent some time identifying their own generational characteristics as described in our blog post, What is a Generation?. We considered our working definition of a Generation Gap, and in the following discussion agreed that identifying specific gaps and engaging creative methods for addressing them could lead to innovative ways to shift the culture of an entire congregation.

At my invitation, five individuals agreed to share with me gaps they had identified in their own congregations. I have pledged to pray for Stephanie, Suzy, Parker, David and Erin and their congregations. They have each identified gaps that they pledge to try to bridge in their home faith communities. They will share their stories with me to then share with you. They are working on everything from developing intentional community for elementary age children, to uniting different women’s groups around a single mission, to engaging ministry for the family as a whole, to taking on a technology gap, to making liturgy more accessible and meaningful for youth, young adults, and middle adults all at the same time. We have all acknowledged that failure is not an option; they will learn from the outcome of their efforts whether their goal is reached or not. Sometimes things come out differently than we desired or expected. If we acknowledge those moments with grace and utilize the opportunity to learn and to engage creative process again, then all is success.

What gaps have you bridged in your faith community? Please join me in praying for these five creative innovators and send your stories to share so that others might learn.

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Mentoring from Generation to Generation…

As the senior member of our Formation & Vocation team I have been blessed to have had many amazing mentors over the years. After reading Bronwyn’s blog I spent time this week reflecting on those mentors who have come and gone in my life. How their willingness to share their wisdom has challenged me, comforted me, encouraged and delighted me. And how these gifts continue to this day to impact all aspects of my life; professional, politically, familial and spiritually. Although there were many lessons learned a few stand out and still continue to inform who I am.

In the mid seventies I had fast tracked into a corporate position, which put me close to the top of the executive ladder. I was prepared for the work, but not for the accepted industry dominated culture of white males over the age of 50 holding positions of power. This was my first lesson about personal and positional power. Fortunately, Mr. Ernest Brown an Executive Vice President took interest in me and afforded to me a safe place to vent and exhale when the pressure of having my abilities challenged because of my gender put me on the brink of public tears. This was an industry like as in baseball, as Tom Hanks said in the movie A league of their own. “There’s no crying in Baseball.”

One particular time when I was sharing with Mr. Brown my most recent tale of woe, about how unjust the system was (and he agreed it was) he said I had a choice; I could give up or fight for change. If I gave up I was on my own, if I fought he was behind me all the way. Why did I fight? Why were his words so significant and powerful? I respected and trusted him and admired his deep devotion to his Christian faith. For he himself lived what he “preached”. Mr. Brown had fought a far greater challenge than I had before me. As a bright young black man of sixteen when he first started working for this very same company, because of the color of his skin he was not allowed to eat lunch in the same restaurant as his co-workers. Mr. Brown had a mentor (the Jewish owner of the company, who after young Ernest started working for him began having lunch brought in) who did for him that which Mr. Brown was promising to do for me. His only condition was that I would commit myself always to fight for justice and that I would never use my station in life as an excuse not to use to the fullest the gifts God has blessed me with.

I have learned from him exactly what Bronwynis encouraging us all to do as “a community faith we are called to live in a way that invites those we seek to mentor to live with intentionality, to practice their agency with greater discernment.”  We are called to share from generation to generation the wisdom that we learn along the way. When I reflect on a Jewish owner in the 1950’s mentoring a Black man who mentors a white women in the 70’s I hope that in some small way I have continued to mentor in a way which honors Mr. Brown. I know that in my years of mentoring others the true blessing has been the deepening of my own faith life in ways that I have yet to realize.

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Mentoring Leadership Across Generations

Who mentored you?

Who are you mentoring?

What leaders have influenced your faith?

How is your leadership influencing faith in others?

This month our blog posts will focus on these questions primarily from the congregational context. We hope to point to some ways in which we can all be more intentional about receiving the wisdom of our our elders, trusting the leadership of our rising leaders, and honoring the younger and less experienced emerging leaders in our midst. We know that the most seasoned amongst us can be resistant to change and frequently long for the past when church was The Thing in the neighborhood. We know that our middle generations feel caught between; wanting to hold to our rich traditions but recognizing that things must change if our faith is to be passed on authentically and purposefully. We know that our youngest members are eager to be taken seriously, and they long for the stories held in the community of personal faith in Jesus Christ, and how it has made a difference in our lives.

Those of us who grew up in the Episcopal Church, who still hold a passion for mission and ministry as Episcopalians, generally can point to some significant mentors who took us seriously as youth; who listened, let us wrestle with our questions of faith, and who encouraged us to take risks for Jesus. Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, reflected on the faithful leaders in her life who helped shape her mission and ministry in her book Lanterns, A Memoir of Mentors  (Beacon Press, 1999). When comparing the many individuals from generations throughout her life she noted the following; “What they all had in common was their respectful treatment of me as an important, thinking individual human being.”

Leadership takes many forms and is exercised and embraced in many different ways. Mentoring is sometimes intentional but more often emerges through relationships and stories. Jesus mentored the disciples who answered his call in the heat of the moment through words and actions; parables, stories that illustrated his point, and deeds, that were powerful and of a healing nature. We are called not only to use the stories of the Gospel, but our own stories of faith to help teach others more about their own call in Christ. It is part of the Covenant we are in through our Baptism; continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, in the prayers, resisting evil, repenting, proclaiming the good news, seeking and serving all persons by word and example, serving and loving our neighbors as ourselves, striving for justice and peace, and respecting the dignity of every human being.

So we ask again, does your leadership influence faith in others? Who or what is leading you? Who is mentoring you now? Who are you mentoring?

We’ll be posting a new idea or perspective every five days throughout the month of January. We encourage you to share your stories through the comments feature of the Episcopal Generations blog.  We can’t wait to learn from you, too.

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Advent 2011 – The Four Directions and Magnificat

Advent is a time to open our hearts, to ponder deeply what comes from God’s Spirit, and then to allow ourselves to be changed by what we see, hear, think and feel.“Four Directions and Magnificat” is and Advent program designed to build upon a “rediscovery” of the history of the Church and this nation that began with “Looking at Columbus Day through the Lens of our Baptismal Covenant.”  This resource is an invitation to use the season of Advent as a time of personal spiritual preparation for broader communal work by congregations, dioceses, and regions as we work together to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.

The Four Directions and Magnificat

 

 

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The World Through Your Eyes: Part II

Today’s post continues the exploration of Sharon Daloz Parks/ model of the developmental needs of various age groups from her book Big Questions, Worthy Dreams. Please read the post from October 25 for an introduction to the model and an exploration of the second column, “Knowledge.” Here is the chart again:

Feeling/Affect

While we may be clear on how developmentally we process outside stimuli, that is often not what comes out of our mouths.  So, if Knowledge explores how what we say is received internally, Parks’ exploration of Feeling/Affect will shed light on how that response is expressed externally in relation to other people, particularly our understanding of sources of authority.

Children: Dependence

Because of their cognitive need to internalize outside parameters for understanding the world, children lack a wider perspective and trust unfailingly the agreed upon authority of parents, of teachers, even of television. These ties, however are not simply cognitive, but are deeply emotional and relational and must be treated with the respect they deserve. We must also realize the incredible power we possess as we often are within the scope of “trusted authorities” as teachers and “grown ups.”

Adolescents: Counterdependence

When this system ruptures and the sky begins to fall there are sometimes feelings of anxiety, bewilderment, and devastation. In other instances, the change can more subtly emerge as a desire for more satisfying ways of knowing. Regardless, the new adolescents begin to understand that the scope of their world is far larger than they imagined and they begin to explore the early stages of independence, counterdependence. They know they don’t fit in the model they had imagined, but rather than step slightly to one side or the other they hurl themselves to the other side of the room. Instead of “I love you, Mom, but I don’t always like you” they shout “I hate you.” The expanse of the world beyond their childhood perceptions is so unfathomably great to them that they have no perspective of how to navigate it. While the resultant flailing about may look like independence, it is hugely dependent, relating conversely to the stability of the authority figure. Our role here is often to pad the walls even as we try to provide a sense of perspective.

Young Adults: Fragile Innerdependence

Parks uses the term innerdependence rather than independence or interdependence to relate that what is happening during this period is that young adults are coming to place themselves among the various sources of credible authority. This is fragile in that both the self and the outside authority are compromised during this period. The young adult doesn’t yet know how to trust herself, and because of that she is tentative to trust her own capacity to discern who else is trustworthy. There exists an incredible anxiety over falling back into dualistic and dependent ways of interpreting the world and yet a lack of self-knowledge to create a stable sense of internal authority. Young adults thus need space to explore and express both their own voice and the possible other external voices that might present helpful guidance in navigating the world. A plethora of options during this period is both overwhelming and absolutely necessary as the young adult discerns where to place her trust.

Tested Adult: Confident Innerdependence

The move toward confidence means the move from understanding others as mentors to understanding them as peers. This signifies a trust in oneself, one’s values, and one’s potential as equal to that of other sources of authority. While it is important that these sources become defined, it also means that other possible sources are excluded from the realm of authority. This can lead to closing oneself off to those beyond. Our role here is often to help tested adults name their own sources of authority and become cognizant of their presence, perhaps exploring them more fully and gaining a more complex understanding of each authority, including the self.

Mature Adult: Interdependence

If we are successful in this exploration many paradoxes will begin to emerge from the self-identified authorities, including paradoxes within the self. What Parks calls “the deep self” may emerge during this period including “the joys and sufferings of childhood, the unresolved issues of adolescence and…the dreams and hopes of young adulthood.” These paradoxes cause the tested adult to reach out to others to help them regain balance, resulting in an interdependence, not looking to the authority of the self or the other entirely, but looking to the authority of the encounter between the two.

When working in intergenerational environments it can often be difficult to tailor our language to the needs of each group, but we can be cognizant of the ways different age groups respond and their means of relating to us as educators and mentors. The message may be alike, but what does the follow up look like within each group? How many times will they need to hear the same message? From who? How can we engage their sources of authority to help them go deeper in their relationship with God?

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