Names have been changed for privacy.
I got to know Aunty Emma and Uncle Glen about four years ago when we were assigned to the same ushering team.
At the time, Church had two services every Sunday, and the later service I attended and served in had a greater number of young adults and teenagers. The mature adults in this service were mainly the parents of these younger members.
I was apprehensive. What would I do, having them on the team? Would they be aloof or authoritative, holding the attitude of being “wiser-than-thou”?
They weren’t, though true enough, I didn’t take well to them at first. But with time, God stripped away the youthful prejudice that blinded me – and I began to see how precious they were to the younger community at the second service.
This year brought me into deeper appreciation for the effort Aunty Emma and Uncle Glen have taken in getting to know people of different age groups – when the name lists and group photos of each adult cell group were posted at the beginning of the year, I was surprised that they had opted for a cell group of young families.
Another time, our pastor shared photos of the planning team for an outreach activity and it took me by surprise to see Aunty Emma sitting in the midst of a bunch of young adults.
It warmed my heart nonetheless because there’s nothing that humanly stops them from choosing to comfortably interact with friends in their own age group, but she and Uncle Glen choose to do otherwise anyway.
They choose to serve alongside a bunch of twenty-somethings as ushers, choose to seat themselves with young adults at lunch when they can, choose to initiate the conversations. They’ve been constant role models for stepping out of one’s comfort zone at Church each week – and I confess I’m often too timid and unwilling to do the same.
One of my favourite things about Aunty Emma and Uncle Glen is that they don’t try to be cool in order to blend in. Instead, they share their life experiences – anecdotes of pre-retirement days, or how their faith has matured over time in their walk with God.
Sometimes they share the joys of mentoring younger Christians, and the fruit of that process – being encouraged in return.
As a young adult navigating the murky waters of “adulting”, I see the value of these intergenerational friendships. Though l am an adult by age, there are times when I do not feel like one. The truth is, young adults like me need friendships with older adults in church to help us navigate the transition to adulthood.
Intergenerational friendships teach us that the kingdom of God is a family – and it is our responsibility to learn to love the whole family.
This is why when Paul describes proper Christian living rooted in the Gospel, he calls older Christian men and women to teach and train the younger ones (Titus 2:3-6). Likewise, Revelation 7:9 shows the diversity in God’s kingdom – the gospel is meant for people of all ages from every nation, tribe and tongue.
Intergenerational friendships, hence, teach us that the kingdom of God is a family – and it is our responsibility to learn to love the whole family.
As someone who hates being needy, this is a daunting thought.
But through Aunty Emma and Uncle Glen’s intentional friendship, I’ve learnt that regardless of the length of our Christian walk, the need for Christ and community doesn’t cease. Life as a Christian is meant to be lived in community (Psalm 133:1) – a lesson I keep learning over and over again.
Of course, I don’t deny the challenges that come with intergenerational friendships – when interacting with someone from a different generation, awkward silences and awkward conversations are a given.
It takes time, effort and the willingness to push through this awkwardness, which sometimes may not be reciprocated – not everyone shows receptiveness to something out of the norm.
Although this is easier said than done, my interactions with Aunty Emma and Uncle Glen have encouraged me to be more forthcoming in befriending other members of church community not within my age group.
Aunty Emma and Uncle Glen, thank you – for showing me that Church extends beyond me and my comfort zone, and despite retirement from secular vocations, there is no retirement from the Christian life.