One of my all-time favourite stories is the timeless Canadian classic, “Anne of Green Gables.” My mom read the books to me when I was young and I am also a huge fan of the 1980’s movie adaptations that used to run on PBS. A couple of weeks ago I checked out the movies from the public library to watch them with my six-year-old daughter. She really got into it! It was so neat to be able to see her face light up as she watched the stories unfold for the first time. For me, there is something really moving about this iconic tale centred around an elderly brother and sister who accidentally adopt and eventually grow to deeply love a precocious, red-haired orphan. There is a point in the movie when Anne goes off to college and Matthew and Marilla stand at the train station to see her off. Matthew says that it sure was lucky that the orphanage made the mistake that brought Anne into their life. Marilla replies “It wasn’t luck. It was Providence. He knew that we needed her.” I think that it touches on a deep area of longing in our hearts when we see the worlds of young and old collide and learn to love each other. I believe that we get to see something of the heart of God through stories like this.
If you ask my four-year-old son what his favourite day of the week is he will always answer “Hot Dog Day”. Thursday. The day when he waits impatiently in the church basement until one of our dedicated senior volunteers calls him up to work. While he certainly does love hot dogs (what kid doesn’t?!), I think it is the fact of being needed and valued that keeps him excited to go every week. By helping Pastor Mat and the other grown-ups serve hot dogs to local junior high school kids, he has become a valuable member of the team. Even better than Hot Dog Day, however, was the day that we were invited to attend the VBC Seniors’ Christmas party. He had an absolute blast running around during the gift exchange and a huge grin never left his face (even when the gift he picked was stolen!).
I imagine that many of the Primetime Kids would tell you that some of their best friends at church are junior high school kids -- those who regularly let go of the typical teenage cool factor and let the kids chase them around the church, play floor hockey with them, or dog-pile on top of them in the gym. One of the highlights of this past year in my work with PrimeTime was when we organized the backpack stuffing party. We were privileged to work with Marie Picard to help out Streetlight Ministries in their work with disadvantaged youth. What a joy it was to see seniors working alongside preschoolers to help them fill up their packs and then watching them kneel together and pray for each of the teens who would receive the gifts. That was a really meaningful evening.
We have a few Primetime kids who come to church with their grandparents, which means that the kids aren’t necessarily able to come to church regularly. It was so great to see the excitement that came from one of these little guys during our Big Discipleship Unit. He was by far one of the loudest and most enthusiastic singers of the bunch, and it was so obvious that he was just thrilled to be there. His Grandma’s face just lit up when she saw how well he was doing. And speaking of the Big Discipleship Unit--how cool was it to see so many grownups acting in the play and interacting with the kids? Did these actors know that they would be immortalized in the kids’ minds forever as “John The Baptist”, “The Other Disciple” and “Simon the Zealot” (among others)?
These days we find ourselves in the middle of our memory verse challenge. It has been awesome to see kids lined up and eager to say their verses. Some of the grownups have even been memorizing along with the kids! Watching the volunteers sit patiently and help the kids say their verses each week is such a treat (maybe even more than the candy!). Last week I noticed a little girl helping her younger brother with the verse of the week. She was teaching it to him, saying it over and over and telling him that he needed to remember it so that he wouldn’t miss out. It was a small window into a really sweet moment.
It sometimes feels like the church is one of the few places in our individualistic society where we can experience these types of interactions in a really deep and meaningful way. As we move forward into our next season I don’t know exactly what everything will look like. I know that we are looking forward to lots of events that will hopefully allow for the mingling of all ages and times of fun and fellowship. There will be kids coming into our program and kids who will be moving on. It is likely that we will have some new teachers and volunteers. I hope that we can continue to experience moments of bonding between young and old, as we work towards fostering a vibrant cross-generational community of believers.
I was thinking through the Biblical narrative and pondering God’s heart for people of all ages. In one of the most stunning parts of the Nativity story (Luke 2), an elderly Simeon holds the infant Jesus in his arms and prophesies over him. In this tiny child, the salvation of all humanity is seen and Simeon asks the Lord to “dismiss your servant in peace”. This scene of an elderly man holding this child paints a picture that is so simple, yet deeply and utterly profound. I can only imagine what emotions he must have experienced in that moment. While we obviously can’t hold the infant Christ-child in our arms like Simeon did, there is a reason why VBC has made cross-generational relationships one of its core values. I want to encourage all of us to seek out and foster friendships with people of all ages, especially our young ones. We may just find that we need them in our lives as much as they need us. Jenny Gowing