In August of 1998, a resource developed by the Rev. Ernesto Medina (then in the Diocese of Los Angeles and now retired in the Diocese of Nebraska) made its debut on the church-wide level. Entitled The Authority of Generations, this process became the foundation for the National Episcopal Children’s Ministries Conference held at Camp Allen (Diocese of Texas) in September 1998. Hundreds came from across the Episcopal Church to further explore a Children’s Charter for the Church and how to implement it on the congregational and diocesan level. Each morning, small groups of 8-10 people gathered across the main campus to pray, read scripture, sing, and share stories. All of this was grounded in hearing everyone’s voice on an equal level.
Assumptions and Development
A viable option for congregational decision-making and program development that is inclusive of all ages, while the Authority of Generations was designed to replace a congregational committee meeting, it has been used for vestry meetings as well as diocesan program groups. I have used it in workshops as well as in my consultations with congregations seeking to widen their educational ministries. Rooted in the liturgical tradition of the Episcopal Church and grounded in the Baptismal Covenant, its development comes from A Children’s Chart for the Church, Ojibway Night Prayer, and theological reflection tools from the Education for Ministry program.
The following assumptions led to the development of the Authority of Generations:
- All persons are created by God and God is already working with them.
- An 8-year-old (any child or youth) has equal access to the life of a church community as does one who is 50 or 70 years of age (any adult).
- The elders of the community have the gift of wisdom and the children of a community have the gift of prophesy. Both gifts must be exercised in the church.
The heart of the Authority of Generations (AG) is relatively simple. Each person in the group is asked to answer a question about their faith journey. After each story is offered, the group will sing a hymn in response. You could create your own question based on your own knowledge of the group or one of the following:
- Bring a holy object from your home and tell a story about it.
- When was God most present in your life?
- Draw a picture of when you first knew God.
- Where have you seen God today?
There are two presiders for the process. The Weaver is a listener who theologically integrates the stories and prayers. This person welcomes the group and at the end of the story telling and singing weaves all the stories to reveal the unity of the group. At the end of the process the weaver asks the question: What shall we do for the next year in … (name what area of ministry you are seeking to define). The Discerner of Song is a person who listens to the story, and invites the group to sing a song that theologically reflects the story. There is a song after each story. Having hymnals available and someone who is adept at knowing hymns is helpful.
The Steps for Authority of Generations
- Identify a purpose for a meeting
- Call a meeting; allow two hours
- The Discerner of Song leads a hymn
- The Weaver prays
- Scripture is read
- The Weaver asks a God question
- A person shares a story and a hymn is sung
- This is repeated until all have shared
- The Weaver links all the common threads from the story
- A question for future ministry is asked based on the threads; responses are recorded.
AG may be done with any combination of people, regardless of age. If children are present, there is a higher probability of new and prophetic vision being created. If there are adults only, you will probably experience the building of strong community and ownership of an existing vision. AG appears to transcend many cultural barriers as their is time for silence and the listening to of everyone’s story. The presiders cannot assume an outcome of the meeting! AG allows normal agendas to go out the window and the openness to the Holy Spirit and her guidance. It has been found that the music is best sung without instrumentation (although drums, tabletops, hands, and feet work great).
Download Authority of Generations: A Liturgical Resource for Use with Children and Adults, co-edited by Ernesto R. Medina and Julia R. Huttar Bailey (The Office for Children’s Ministries at Episcopal Church Center, 1998).
Also helpful is Awake My Soul: A Liturgical Resource for Use with Children and Adults co-edited by Ernesto and Julia (Office for Children’s Ministries, 2000). This is a compilation of resources used at the 1998 conference and includes liturgies for all ages, a hymn list for AG, and stories of how AG has been used in dioceses and congregations.