Generation to Generation, Talking Together

Date posted: Wednesday 21 February 2018

The cohort having dinner with the Rev. William Flippin Jr, pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Atlanta and Third Vice President for the Georgia NAACP

Over the coming weeks of Lent, the synod blog will feature entries from the participants, such as myself, of Road Trip Atlanta: Race, Justice & Privilege. We will be sharing reflections on what we experienced, learned, and discussed as a group — and I know we are all still wrestling with what this trip stirred up in us. I am eager to hear their reflections on this newfound and/or rekindled unsettled-ness. I could share a great deal along those lines, but I want to leave that to the rest of the group and instead share something that took root before the trip even began.


This trip to Atlanta was originally conceived as part of the synod’s young adult initiative, being planned by myself and the Rev. Justin Grimm. As we as a synod live into our statement of purpose of deeper faith, wider engagement, bolder trust, our work alongside young adults from across the synod is guided by desires to present challenging ideas and experiences, to foster a sense that church can be a place for deep learning about the world, and to help them develop a vocational identity that equips them to respond thoughtfully and gracefully to that world. With the acute concern for racial justice we are seeing in many of our congregations, a trip to the American South surfaced as good option for our first immersion learning experience. Bishop Lull & synod staff had connections in Atlanta, so it was a natural place to start planning— and it ended up being exactly right.


However, with lower-than-hoped-for registration a month out, we had a choice: cancel the trip or rethink it. Knowing that we had a rich learning opportunity planned, we opted for rethinking! We asked the young adults who were signed up if they would be open to an inter-generational model instead. Their response was swift and clear: YES!


Seven of us ended up going: four of us in our twenties and thirties, three over sixty. We were strangers before we left, and there were five decades between the youngest and oldest of us. Perhaps this will not surprise you, but it surprised me: it went so beautifully.


Church, Together

Rather than one generation talking about the other(s), we talked to one another. There was no talk of how self-involved, demanding, over-sensitive, or noncommittal “young people” are. Nor was there any talk of “older people” being close-minded, rigid, afraid to change, or disengaged from the issues that matter to young adults. Instead, we shared our common experiences across generations of waking up to injustice, feeling timid, immobilized, or overwhelmed, and yet convicted. We saw each other’s deep yearnings for our families, efforts to interrogate and leverage our privilege, and responses born of faith in God’s intention for life abundant. This shift from talking about to talking to is one that will guide our initiative—and my own relationships—moving forward. And it means I will continue to seek out new and unexpected conversation partners. How exciting!


The synod intended to create a space for young adults to wrestle with race, justice and privilege—partially to show that the church is not silent or complacent on these matters. Instead, we were church together: multiple generations under one roof, building relationships, sharing our weaknesses, fears, experiences and hopes, breaking bread, learning, praying, laughing and committing ourselves to justice and community.


Anna Marsh

Executive Assistant to the Bishop

Saint Paul Area Synod