On certain Sundays, we gather as a whole congregation – people of many ages, identities, and interests – to worship together in celebration of memory and the circle of life. What makes a Whole Congregation Service truly “multigenerational” and why should YOU attend?
Well-constructed multigenerational worship connects with “multiple intelligences” (a la Gardners’s work in the early 1980’s). So, it’s not necessarily about age, but rather about what speaks to folks’ preferred ways of interacting with the world. For instance, a “kinesthetic learner” of any age might appreciate a body prayer where they are asked to stretch and move. Someone who connects in an “intrapersonal” manner might value a time for meditation. YES – even young children can learn to be quietly mindful and adults can learn to let the noises of youngsters flow in and through them! “Spatial” learners are acutely aware of their environment and might spend much of the Service focused on the theme-adorned altar.
There is a growing movement in Unitarian Universalist Religious Education toward “whole congregation ministry” in an effort to navigate our very age-segregated, overly-scheduled lives. Families are feeling a need to be together and to share common worship experiences. All adults in our “village” have a role in raising the next generation of UUs; they won’t know “how to worship” if we don’t teach them! So, what can you do you ask?
- Show up for multigenerational worship! If you have young children, think, “Wow – what a wonderful opportunity for us all to worship and learn together in this welcoming space!” If you DON’T have young children, say to yourself, “I can’t wait to experience this intentionally-planned service that will incorporate elements which appeal to many different areas of my understanding!”
- Sit next to a child! Model “liturgical behavior” (enthusiastically speak unison readings, put down papers during meditation, stand to sing hymns, etc.). Hold your hymnal down low and follow the words with your finger to help the child follow along. It means a lot to children when adults who are not their parents help them learn to worship.
- Be open to the experience! Know that every little wiggle, quiet chatter, and question from a young voice means that our congregation is growing and has a future. When we engage in worship together, we say to each other – whether we are 2 or 100 - “You and your whole self are worthy; you are welcome here”!