Sermon for Youth Sunday
By Rosemary MacAdam
For any of you who were here a month ago we had the pleasure of hearing Andrea preach and it was moment I was very proud of Andrea sharing her experience, and it also brought me back to the first time I preached.
I was asked to preach when I was 20 and had just returned from Nicaragua from a international feminist solidarity trip. I had lived in a remote indigenous village where their local church was a hub of community. And I was particularly inspired by the faith of my host mom and these strong women who ran the church. When I returned back to Toronto my church, Holy Trinity, asked me to preach. I was quite nervous and also I have the habit of tearing up when I talking about something I care about while speaking publicly.
Well, half way through this sermon, when I started talking about these strong indigenous women I had met, I burst into tears. I wasn’t just tearing, it was a water works. I choked my way through the rest of the sermon and needless to say I was embarrassed, mortified. Every time I speak publicly I pray that doesn’t happen.
But when I reflect on that experience what now sticks out for me, what really touches me, was that my church cared about what was happening in my life, cared enough about my faith journey that they invited me to preach. So I was so happy to see that reflected here at St Margaret’s, that we care about Andrea’s faith journey, and we care about the faith journey of young people in our church.
That care, to me, is what is at the heart of church and what I am going to speaking about today, which is intergenerational ministry.
What is intergenerational ministry? It’s a big, fancy sounding word. Intergenerational ministry is a model of Christian ministry which emphasizes relationships between age groups and encourages mixed-age activities.
About a month ago this article was in our bulletin called ‘Sunday Schooling Our Kids Out of Church.’ I hope you had a chance to read it- The article looks at the shift in the 1960s to sending kids to Sunday school and taking them out of the main worship service. This has had a un-intended consequences. As Tim Wright puts it “by segregating our kids out of worship, we never assimilated them into the life of the congregation. They had no touch points. They had no experience and no connection with the main worship experience- it’s liturgy, music, environment and it’s adults. It was a foreign place to them. And so.. once they finished with the kids/ or youth program, they left the church.”
This article when I read it deeply affected me. As I did more research on this topic I found studies which showed that children attending Sunday Schools and youth programs are less likely to continue church involvement, compared to those who attended worship with parents, and are integrated into a community.
For a lot of my ministry I have been doing just this- creating programs specifically for youth but they are very much separate from the congregation. I know and see how St Margaret’s cares deeply about youth. This congregations has supported and paid me for almost 3 years now to reach out build relationships with young people in our community and our congregation.
I love the William Temple quote that greets us on the wall that “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of it’s non-members.” I see this at St Margaret’s. I have been supported in building an outreach ministry to children and youth in our neighbourhood. And our weekly youth programs are thriving. Our cooking club for teens is bursting beyond capacity with upwards of 20 teenagers coming every week. Another 30 children and teens come to St Margaret’s for our after school program and Friday night program. This is truly a wonderful ministry, and I’m so grateful God is pointing us in this ministry because these young people are a part of the body of Christ. But in light of this illuminating article the question is- do you know these youth? Do you know any of the 50 kids that come to this church every week? And do they know you?
It has been heartening for me to realize how disconnected many of the programs I run are from the rest of the church and I feel this has been a failure on my part. I have been relying on Humber students to be the hands and feet of these youth programs but I also need you. One of the biggest part of Christianity for me is relational. How are we connected as a community?
If we look to scripture God’s directives in the Old Testament clearly identify the Israelites as a relational community where the children grow up participating in the culture they were becoming, children were not just included, they were drawn in, assimilated, and absorbed into the whole community with a deep sense of belonging.
Belonging is a huge part of our lives. We need to have a sense of belonging. When I think back to my own experience growing up in my church- when I felt that belonging most wasn’t any experience in Sunday School, it was when I rejoined the congregation for Eucharist and I was a part of the whole, became one with everyone, young and old, in the Eucharist.
Intergenerational community exists throughout the Old and New Testament. Kara Jerkins an author and theologian who writes about the Biblical roots of intergenerational ministry, states, “The term ‘generations’ itself is often used in Scripture, but more importantly, Scripture reveals God’s desire that people of one generation would tell of God’s works to the next generation, and that people of every generation would unite to share the Good News of Jesus Christ”
We are working to live that out here more and more at St Margaret’s. I think there is a place for sunday school and for youth group, and having specific interest groups at the church and I believe we need to also create more space to us to worship together. We have started All Family Worship Sundays where the children and youth will be in the service, and our next one is All Saints Sunday Nov 2nd. Our Sing, Pray and Play service is an opportunity for children, youth, adults to enjoy the worship service together.
This third Sunday of the month the youth group will be taking on a greater sense of purpose, involvement and responsibility in the worship service. I personally feel inspired and excited to explore new ways to create a worship experience together. And I know the youth group- that you have the passion, creativity and intelligence to create some truly beautiful experiences.
From our first reading the part which really stuck out for me was the line-
“There may come a time when recovery lies in the hands of physicians,*
14 for they too pray to the Lord
that God will grant them success in diagnosis*
and in healing, for the sake of preserving life.
What if we read this passage with the word youth instead of physicians- “There may come a time when recovery lies in the hands of Youth, for they too pray to the Lord….” yet I think it’s even time to take one step further- into intergenerational ministry. And that may sound something like this:
There may come a time when recovery lies in the hands of children, youth, adults and elders together,
for we all pray to the Lord,
that God will grant us success and healing,
for the sake of preserving Life”
In this spirit I invite all the adults St Margaret’s to come and be a part of the youth programs. Even coming out once or twice would be appreciated. Come a get to know the young people who also call St Margaret’s home, and you might just experience God in the midst of us. And youth I invite you to come and be a part of the service and to be of service, to offer up your creativity, your interest, your questions and your skills so they we can learn about God from you.
We can be inspired by Paul in Colossians, “Together, generations heard of the profound mystery of God, the living hope that they had as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and God’s eternal purpose for their salvation. Children, youth, and adults together learned of their great God and rejoiced as one family of believers. Amen.