Rev. Dr. Brenda Buckwell is founder of Living Streams Flowing Water spiritual formation ministry. As an ordained elder she preaches, consults with congregations, districts and judicatories integrating spiritual formation into the mainstream of ministry. She teaches prayer and spiritual direction at Ashland Theological Seminary, Garrett Evangelical Seminary and CenterQuest. You may reach Brenda through the contact form on her website www.livingstreamsflowingwater.com
Is intergenerational spiritual formation possible in the 21st century?
Remember the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child?” Has the notion of village become lost in our contemporary culture? When I look around, I see individuals struggling. People pour out large amounts of energy striving to make ends meet while keeping stability in the household and completing daily to do lists. Individualism looms as a dominant pattern for obtaining job satisfaction, self-worth, and bolstering a sense of accomplishment and knowledge through crowd-sourcing posted on social media. Often this preferred stance of the “self-made” person drives our personal seeking for God overlooking generational wisdom.
Intergenerational faith formation has the potential to gift an individualized nation that is divided among race, socio-economic and political lines by creating villages. “Revillaging” community creates opportunity for spiritual kinship to thrive through creativity, storytelling and mentoring. This leads to an incarnational embodied faith that is easily shared between generations and through stages of development.
Seeing Beyond the Surface: Contemplative listening and receiving
The foundation to faith-revillaging for community is seeing beyond the surface. This is looking beyond the specifics of age, race, gender and classism to the heart of creation. With expectant hope and certainty that God is dwelling in the other, each age level can experience God’s presence in the other as spiritual kinship is birthed. The trick is to develop eyes to see and ears to hear God’s presence and voice in the other. The best method of training for this contemplative gazing is spiritual direction.
This contemplative mode of listening and receiving the other in spiritual direction is an historic prayer practice which binds people together at a soul deep level and transforms the outward actions of mission, service and prayer. This mid-wifery process of spiritual direction brings new understandings, experiences and wisdom of God to humanity creating a plethora of intergenerational opportunities for faith forming practices in the village of God’s people.
People of all ages can engage in the storytelling. This is much more than just retelling the biblical story. Holy listening and storytelling with an intergenerational village provides opportunity for persons to share how God is present, active and transforming life personally. Envision a Grandma (a spiritual mother) surrounded by adults, children, and teens telling her weekly experience of God’s abounding grace. Then Grandma invites another individual forward and the child shares.
But the question arises, what if one does not know their own story? Creative arts prayers can assist in eliciting one’s story of faith.
Creative Arts Prayer
Creative arts prayer techniques provide great fodder for revillaging a community as generations intermix. Visio Divina with cartoons, movie clips and pictures or icons can open the way for insightful story conversation. The benefit of praying in color literally opens a space within the brain for the presence of God to rise to the consciousness of younger and older individuals. Great joy can be experienced by picking up colored pencils and allowing the beyond words expression of God to fill the sacred circle of a Mandala as community explores the Alpha and Omega of Christ. Meditative Movement with prayer postures, hand dancing and the use of breath with the infilling of the Holy Spirit breaks down the age division among us. With these and more creative arts prayers, we can witness to nonverbal expressions of God’s presence and stand in solidarity with those that are suffering and growing in grace.
Intentional storytelling gives rise to the need of spiritual mentors. Since spiritual formation is a life-long journey, through which children, teens, young adults, middle adults and older adults travel. Every age and stage of life can become mentors for others, as well as relate to a mentor in faith for ourselves.
It takes a village to encourage one another in faith. The multigenerational opportunity of co-creating with God spiritual kinships across cultural divides is limitless. How will you begin? With whom will you share your faith story? How can you encourage others to break the fear of “professional artist” into accessible movement and praying in color? I look forward to hearing from you as you seek to cross the great generation divide and revillage your community.