Updated: Oct 1, 2021
Tanya Webster, Director of Lifespan Faith Engagement
from the archive, March 2020
Times have changed and our multi-tasking mobile society can make it harder to connect. More than ever, it has be-come important to worship in spiritual community, not only on our own. While stage- or interest-based worship is also important, community worship allows us to connect with something bigger than ourselves, to more of humanity, per-haps even to reveal more of that which is found sacred.
As community worship is necessarily defined by who is in that community, Unitarian Universalists attempt to “draw the circle wide.” Welcoming all - regardless of race, gender, religious background, and other diversities - allows our shared worship to grow richer in knowledge and beauty, more supportive of its members’ growth, and better able to affect positive changes in our world.
Most UUs acknowledge this, and yet many of us still over-look another axis of diversity also important to our group worship: Ages and Stages. Every single age group benefits from whole community in worship. The UUA speaks to this value of All-Ages worship experiences:
“The Search Institute, which has been conducting global research on spiritual development for fifty years, notes that one fundamental aspect of spiritual development is inter-connecting, that is “linking oneself to narrative, communities, mentors, beliefs, traditions, and/or practices that re-main significant over time.” The best way for the most people to link to the narratives, communities, mentors, traditions, and practices of their faith communities is to participate in actively intergenerational age-integrated experiences with others in those faith communities.” (Allen, Ross, 2012)
Here are a few of the reasons to participate in our UUSM multigenerational services:
It gives us time together to bond as a community. Further-more, it gives the implicit message to kids - and adults - that the kids are truly a full part of the whole church, not always "sung out" to leave the adults to continue service.
Our culture right now is very isolating. More than ever, activities and spaces are age-separated and/or online, which increases loneliness and mental inflexibility. This is especially true for many of our seniors, who move after retirement to be closer to grandkids or for other reasons, and then need to re-establish a community. Every generation needs more multigen time.
It familiarizes our children and youth to UU worship and hearing our values and stories so that they become connect-ed with it (and not only their peers in Sunday school) which helps build lifetime UUs.
Most denominations have moved to multigenerational worships and away from the 1950s model of taking kids out of service for Sunday school. Research shows that kids who worship with their families (however you personally define "worship"), either at home or in service, are much more likely to continue being active exploring their faith when they grow up. Parents leading their families in services is the number one influencer. Our faith survives with the next generation.
It provides valuable time for all ages to practice self-care mentally and emotionally, and time to recharge and stabilize in our busy lives. Like Vitamin C for the soul. This is true also for the kids, and they will grow into it the more often they're invited to access it.
Multigenerational worship also allows older adults to gain wisdom and a stronger connection with the younger generations, many of whom already have solid experience re-framing life through the lens of beloved community. They lead our community by example, in so many ways.
I invite us all to spend a few moments reflecting on how multigenerational worship supports each of us, regardless of age or household. When we make space and truly embrace tolerance for all ages in Sunday worship, we “widen the circle” of our spiritual community.
With gratitude for our community,