by: Fr. Nicholas A. Marziani, Jr., D.Min ~ Pastor Emeritus, St. James Church
I mentioned in my column last month that I was retiring from my seven year stint as pastor of St. James Church in late January. Since then I have yet been involved with the church as I turn over what constitutes a pile of paperwork to my successor. Working with a young man in his mid-30s has been an interesting experience, and I have had a few conversations with others who also interacted intensively with much younger colleagues.
Whether its retirement turn-overs, or even more poignantly finding yourself in your 50s or 60s actually reporting to a thirty-something boss, there’s no doubt that little in our societal evolution has adequately prepared older folks for this new reality. Of course, many of us have adult children with whom we share this world, and those relationships can be interesting enough in their own right. But working alongside or especially under the oversight of a new generation can be a challenge if we are slow to make the requisite adjustments in our attitudes. I think it was Victor Hugo who once said that forty is the old age of youth, and that fifty is the youth of old age. Inter-generational tensions are inevitable – they always were and always will be – but as seniors (or even “young” old folks!) live and work longer than in the past, well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict the uptick in tensions and misunderstanding that can and do occur in the work, or even worship, space.
A social scientist once observed that even in families, siblings whose age differences exceed five years live in virtually different worlds. Somehow younger folks need to learn that mid- centenarians and elders in general are not dunder-headed “in the way” kind of people, unable to pull their weight. Older adults, in turn, need to temper their frustrations with those who seem at times to be rather self-absorbed to the point of distraction. I like the way the Apostle St. John in his general letter to first century Christians (I John 2), commended both the youth and the elders (verses 12-14) among his readership for their special capacities and virtues in their walk with God.
And in 1985 an ordained rabbi and family therapist, Edwin Friedman, wrote his classic work, Generation to Generation, which on the surface seems to only address family processes in religious settings, but in fact has been adapted to countless corporate contexts throughout the world. I highly encourage anyone interested in seeing this world really mesh to read this book.
Space constrains me, so I must close. And may your March “mesh” by the Grace of God!