Full disclosure, first off: New Testament Greek at Western Theological Seminary was a long time ago! But I still like diddling around with words, including words in the Bible, because I love shades of meaning.
Take γενεά (genea), for example. It can be translated as generation, family, or race. Mostly it’s time-and-ancestry associated, as in the first two definitions; people living within a particular span of years, or descendents with common family lineage. But translated as “race,” it can more broadly refer to people of a particular sort, distinguished by characteristics other than birth years or genes, such as common pursuits, character or behavior. An example might be in I Peter 2, where the writer describes a chosen race/generation of people whose new identity in Christ is to proclaim the praises of God.
Okay, where’s this going? My RfA staff colleague, Cameron Van Kooten Laughead, and I spent a week in West Michigan recently. Between the two of us, we took part in a seemingly disparate variety of activities, but by the last day, we had identified a common thread which, on reflection, has led me to my (very) cursory word search.
Per the time and/or lineage meaning of γενεά, we visited with three different pastors in their 30’s whose young children were present for the conversation; had a couple meetings with college students; ate dinner with a group of church members ranging in age from 20 – 50ish, and spent a delightful story-telling morning with mostly 80+ year-old residents at a senior living community. All in all, we had the pleasure of meeting with about four generations of RCA folk. (Actually, speaking of words, “pleasure” isn’t quite it. Delight is better. No, joy — the ear-to-ear, “my face aches from smiling” kind!)
Although age-wise, all of these people are of a different γενεά, they represent the broader meaning of the word. They’re related in a common “race” or identity as the “Room for All Generation” – Christ-followers of all ages who believe that people of all sexual identities and gender expressions belong in the Body of Christ.
The “Room for All Generation” includes children being raised by parents who want them to understand the rich diversity of God’s human family, to grow up hearing positive conversations about LGBTQ inclusiveness, and to see a model of welcome and affirmation in their homes and their churches.
The “Room for All Generation” includes college students who identify as LGBTQ or allies, and who live, study and are friends with LGBTQ people. They tell us they simply don’t get why church people want to be gatekeepers. Some have turned away from church for that reason, while others are intentional about attending one that is publically LGBTQ-inclusive.
The “Room for All Generation” includes people in mid-life whose understanding of Scripture and biology has deepened with life experiences and relationships, and who want their local congregation to widen its welcome to include LGBTQ people. One person told me, “Life is about learning and growing, and to me, faith and life have to intersect. I want my church to be real.”
And finally, contrary to stereotypes about older people holding the church back over the matter of inclusiveness, the “Room for All Generation” includes seniors who tell us that as you approach the end of life, the most important things become crystal clear. Thanks be to God, they identify the church’s affirmation of LGBTQ people as one of them. What a joy it was to share stories with a packed roomful of the older members of the “Room for All Generation!” Their deep wisdom and their encouragement has followed me home, and buoys me up to continue this ministry to God’s people of all ages!
Marilyn is Room for All’s Executive Director. She is proud to trace several generations of RCA folk in her ancestry, but even prouder to be part of the “Room for All Generation.”