When my church sponsored a late summer outing on a paddlewheel riverboat, everyone seemed a bit giddy to be together. That’s understandable, since opportunities to be in person had been sorely limited for so long.
While the number of people who climbed aboard was more than I expected, even more surprising to me was the age range—from 2 to more than 82, with just about every decade between. Who knew that a tranquil cruise up our local river would have such broad appeal?
Nowadays, church is one of the few places where all the generations belong to the same community. Babies are snuggled by older adults. Teenagers play with toddlers. Young adults counsel campers. Mentors pair up with mentees. Even the National Older Adult Conference is multigenerational, with an age range of some 40 years. In a world where individuals sometimes feel separate from each other, a place to belong is a true treasure.
The apostle Paul, a mentor to young Timothy, celebrates the way faith is passed down from one generation to another: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you” (2 Timothy 1:5). This is so important that we know the names of Lois and Eunice.
One of the littlest ones on the riverboat cruise was Fae, not yet four years old. She and her siblings were there with their parents and grandparents. For some reason, she remembers me as her friend, even though we’ve barely met and she hasn’t seen me for at least the length of a pandemic. But I’m thrilled to be Fae’s friend—and to see that her church family makes her smile.
Even congregations that don’t have multiple generations within their walls have other generations nearby. Even those of us who aren’t teachers or mentors or counselors can engage in the “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). We belong to each other. Let’s not miss the boat!
Wendy McFadden is publisher of Brethren Press and Communications for the Church of the Brethren.