Intergenerational friendships


Hello world!
Again, apologies for not blogging for so long. I know I’m rubbish – sorry!
I want to talk about something that came up while I was at the Methodist Women in Britain annual residential conference, in Swanwick. The theme of the weekend was ‘Crossing the Chasm’.
I first came into to contact with Methodist Women in Britain when I met the lovely Jill Baker, the current President, at Conference 2012, and I have got to know the movement better over my year as Youth President. Jill and Rachel, the Helen Kim Memorial Scholar (http://vimeo.com/58792816), spoke during one of the debates about MWiB and particularly the place for younger women in the movement. My two memories from their (very enthusiastic and slick!) speech are Rachel explaining that MWiB is ‘about more than just making jam!’ and them finishing talking about the involvement of younger women by one saying ‘it’s good news for us!’ and the other saying ‘and it’s good news for me!’
While at the Swanwick Conference I was interviewed during the opening session. One of the questions I was asked in the interview was ‘how can we connect with younger women when their lives are so different from ours; they spend so much time surfing the internet and using social media, I feel like we have nothing in common and I have nothing relevant to offer’. What a poignant question! Clearly many older people feel that there is a chasm between them and the younger generation. Can we cross this chasm? Is it worth crossing?
I started my answer talking about the value of real life relationships. I am a fan of social media and value it as a tool to use to keep in touch with friends and family across the country and across the world, but in my opinion it cannot match real face to face friendships.
I became a Christian at the age of 16 and since then have been a part of four different churches in three different towns – one Anglican, two Pentecostal, and one Methodist. They are four quite different churches with different styles, different demographics of congregations and some differing theological viewpoints. Many differences but I want to draw attention to a similarity. In each one I made friends – or rather, I was made friends with! I’m not the most ‘people’ of people (my husband on the other hand is a charmer and does plenty of friend making for the both of us!) but as I look back over the landscape of my life in past 7 years I can see a number of Christian people, particularly women and particularly women who are older than me, lining the way. They have played a very significant part in my life and my journey as a disciple. They have a part in who I have become and am becoming. They have demonstrated a simple, heartfelt, unwavering care for me. Some I have been and am very close to, some I don’t know very well but have received many a friendly smile or hello from. Some have been around for years, some for a few months or even weeks. Two were my youth leaders back at the very beginning; an unforgettable example of how to share your life (including the sucky bits) with young people and by doing this show them how God is there through it all. One was my host for two years; she welcomed the most random of people into her home (including me) and lived a beautiful combination of generosity, prayer and evangelism daily. Another is an elderly lady who always gave fabulous hugs while everyone else shook hands during ‘peace be with you’; the only person I felt comfortable to share a room with at the church weekend away.
 
 
Some of our church friends at our wedding

Young people need these sorts of relationships. They need more than Facebook friends and Twitter followers. They need people who will notice when they don’t turn up for a few weeks. They need people who will cook a good healthy meal with plenty of vegetables for them when they are living on pasta and cheap tomato sauce at university. They need people who will believe in them. They need people who will sit next to them at church. They need people who will invite them round for a cup of tea. They need people who will tell them they are praying for them when they have exams. They need people who will say ‘you look lovely today’. They need people who will send them encouraging cards when they have moved far away from home. They need people who will look them in the eye and say ‘are you ok?’. They need role models, companions, stories to learn from and shoulders to cry on. They need people with wisdom and experience, with love, with hugging arms and squeezing hands and praying hearts who are actually there in their lives.
Church can offer the sort of community that I haven’t found anywhere else. Young people may not often come into contact with people of other generations other than family and teachers – I don’t think I did, until I joined a church. Now I have friends in their 0s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s!!
Young people; chat to the older people around you. The chasm between generations needs to be crossed from both sides. Get to know them as individuals. Make an effort to build a friendship with someone outside of your normal comfort zone. It will brighten up your life and theirs. 
Older people; don’t underestimate what you can contribute to a young person’s life today. As I told the women at the MWiB conference, God has put you where you are as the person that you are today. You can cross the chasm. Be brave - reach out to a young person. It really will be good for them and good for you. Your love and care will make a huge difference.  The internet is no match for you.
 
Note - safeguarding vulnerable people, including young people, is important. To find out more about the Methodist Church's safeguarding policy click here: http://www.methodist.org.uk/ministers-and-office-holders/safeguarding
 
 

 

12 comments:

  1. Brilliant post Hayley- really enjoyed reading it! xx

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  2. Wow Hayley - you've really put it to us brilliantly - challenges for us all to take up and so much encouragement (and I think you're lovely too!) Jill

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  3. Thanks for this Hayley, please may I print it in our church newsletter (Salisbury MC)? It has been good to get to know you, even briefly, and good for MWiB to link with you as Youth President. Thanks to Rachel for the link too. Every blessing, Liz

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  4. What wise words, Hayley! Thank you.

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  5. Thanks everyone, glad it's encouraging. Please do Liz :)

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  6. Yes, wise words indeed. As God's family we have the opportunity to show the world how He intends us to live!

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  7. Thank you Hayley - this is really worth reading and a real challenge. I have copied to use in our Church Mag.
    God Bless.

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  8. Thank you Hayley, 'the internet is no match for you'- brilliant and very encouraging for those who think they have nothing to offer an 'internet generation'. I would like to use this in the Buxton methodist Church Magazine please.

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