Unity in Diversity: Age

David R. Brock

I’ll be 58 years of age on November 19. Hard to know how to feel about that. Very happy I survived stage-two Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 50. Privileged to play softball with the Pacific Northwest delegation at SPECTACULAR 2009 and happy to share details of the shoestring catch and unassisted double play the old guy made in center field. But, I’ve lost a step or two, my volleyball skills are diminishing, and there’s this ringing in my ears that makes me say “huh?” a lot more often when people talk to me in crowded rooms.

   I’m from the baby boom “bulge-in-the-snake” generation, trying to get used to being more of a caretaker for my parents who I somehow thought would always be there to “care take” me. I’m somewhere in the middle—still irritated at ‘old people’ who drive soooo slow or spend a lot of time looking back longing for the way things used to be. But, being from the generation who proclaimed “don’t trust anyone over the age of 30,” I now look at those under that age and wonder “why we can’t all just get along!” And I met a 91 year-old a few months ago whose future-oriented vision was clearer and deeper than many of my own generation!

   The United States census for 2010 will show that we are far more diverse than most of us realize. That includes age diversity. The new data will show an increase in three generation households. Decisions about major purchases, like the new car, will be made only after input from kids, parents, and grandparents. Grandparents are more and more involved in decisions about the grandkids future—schooling, sports, clothing, higher education, etc. What are the implications? Will those facts bridge generational divides or exacerbate them?

   As Presiding Evangelist for Community of Christ, with the challenge given by President Veazey “to help the youth and young adults of the church discover transformative encounter with God’s Spirit as the foundational reality of responsible life and healthy relationships,” I spend quite a bit of time thinking about how evangelists (most over 50, many in our 70’s and 80’s) can learn from and share wisdom with youth and young adults.

   An elderly Jewish Rebbe, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, is wise about ways the older and younger generations can be mutually supportive. His perspectives represent a pledge I pray evangelists can make to youth and young adults in Community of Christ:

  • “[The evangelist] is flexible, unattached to outcomes, tolerant and patient, and willing to teach when asked…[but] need not impose wisdom on others. Possessing an inner authority, he or she doesn’t need to bolster personal power through self-assertion. Yet just because personal coercion is absent, such a person radiates an enormously beneficial influence by evoking the questing spirit in younger people.” [June Singer quoted, pp. 142-143]
  • “[Evangelists] recognize that traditions constantly must evolve to avoid stagnation and the excessive veneration of the past that destroys creativity and intellectual curiosity.” [143]
  • “[Evangelists] do not impose solutions to problems on young people. Instead, they remind them of the consequences of their actions, trusting in their ability to listen, make wise choices, and work for a more peaceful world. In this way, they allow young people to choose their own courses of action without inciting rebellion against the old guard.” [144]1

   Teaching and learning—generation to generation, generation with generation. That’s where my hope for the future lies!

1 From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A
Profound New Vision of Growing Older
, by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi with Ronald S. Miller,
Warner Books, 1995

Enduring Principle: Unity In Diversity

The Community of Christ is a diverse, international family of disciples, seekers, and congregations.

Local and worldwide ministries are interdependent and important to the church’s mission.

The church embraces diversity and unity through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We seek agreement or common consent in important matters. If we cannot achieve agreement, we commit to ongoing dialogue and lovingly uphold our common faith in Jesus Christ and the mission of the church.

We confess that our lack of agreement on certain matters is hurtful to some of God’s beloved children and creation.

Read the “We Share Document” with our 9 Enduring Principles.

Dave Brock serves as the Presiding Evangelist for Community of Christ and lives near Independence, Missouri. He loves to hear from young adults – get in touch with Dave to find ways you and your young adult group can team up with Evangelists in your area.

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