My three siblings and I recently hosted a major milestone birthday party for our parents. The party was, in a very real way, a celebration of the theme of this issue: Generations. Being surrounded by family members—some who were older than me, some who were my age, and some who were younger than me—reinforced this theme of generations in a powerful and visceral way.
And, importantly, the event reinforced the theme not only through my actual family, but also through the family we call the church. Many who attended this party were dear friends from the two churches that have been most central to my mom and dad in their adult lives—one from a suburb of Chicago, where I grew up, and the other from a church in Roseville, where my parents moved after I graduated from college.
The presence of friends from these churches was no accident, since the church, of course, is also a family—and, like all families, is also made up of generations.
A helpful reminder of the generational nature of the church comes through a word that sometimes get a bad rap, namely, “tradition.” Far from implying something that is old and tired and irrelevant, the word in fact refers to something that is active and alive. Literally, the word tradition means “handing on,” and it underscores the truth that the church is an ongoing, living community that is in the business of connecting one generation to another: Those who have gone before us have handed on God’s love to us, and—as recipients of that love—we have the privilege and responsibility of handing on this same love to those who will come after us.
Seeing this truth about the church—recognizing the connections each generation has with the generations before and after them—strikes me as a healthy exercise, because it helps us to see and recognize the specific “place” or “location” we each take up in a complex network of loving relationships that span both space and time.
Among other things, seeing more clearly our place in the generations of the church gives us a sense of perspective. It allows us to acknowledge with gratitude what our predecessors have accomplished; it challenges us to pick up the responsibility we have to hand on and share God’s love in our own place and time; and it also forces us to live in hope by humbly accepting that we will never be able to “finish” this work—that we need to trust that those who come after us will be able to take it up as their own.
At that party for my mom and dad, I was glad to be surrounded by so much love—between and among multiple generations. Here at St. Philip the Deacon, I feel the same way. As you reflect on our wonderful faith community made up of so many generations, I pray that you can continue to take up your own important place in this family. When you do, you allow all of us to more fully receive the love passed down to us over the centuries, and—with God’s help—to hand it on to those who will come after us.
With Gratitude for Your Place
in the Family,