THE AUTHORITY OF GENERATIONS:
FOUNDATION AND DESCRIPTION
Authority of Generations was first developed by Ernesto Medina and Michael Cunningham in 1998. It was the first of the evolutions of steps leading to the "Discernment of Gifts" Project.The Authority of Generations (AG) is a viable option for congregational decision making and program development, inclusive of all ages. While it was designed for replacing a congregational committee meeting, it can and has been used for Vestry meetings as well as Diocesan Program Groups. We are finding its use flexible to most any church decision making event.
ASSUMPTIONS AND DEVELOPMENT
AG has been developed with the following assumptions:
- All persons are created by God and God is already working within 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 60 years of age (any adult).
- The elders of a 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.
- It is rooted in the liturgical tradition of our church.
The development of AG has come from a combination of influences, including:
- The Children’s Charter for the Church;
- Ojibway Night Prayer;
- Theological Reflection tools from the Education for Ministry Program.
The heart of AG is relatively simple. Each person in the group will be asked to answer a question about their faith journey. After each story is offered, the group will sing a hymn in response.
The question which elicits the stories is flexible. Some examples of the type of question (or task) include:
- Bring a holy object from your home and tell the story about it.
- When was God most present in your life?
- Draw of picture of when you first saw God and share the story.
- When was God most present to you this week?
You are certainly free to create your own question based upon your own knowledge of the group meeting. What must not be compromised, however, is the intentionality about God!
There are two presiders for the process:
- The Weaver: This person should have basic skills in listening, theological integration and prayer. The Weaver listens to the stories told by each person and is praying throughout the process. his person welcomes the group and at the end of the story telling and singing weaves all the stories together by articulating all common elements.
- The Discerner of Song: This person should have basic skills in song leading, listening and prayer. The Discerner of Song listens to each story and prays. After each story is told, this person then discerns which hymn will be sung as a response to the story.
THE STEPS FOR AUTHORITY OF GENERATIONS
- Identify a purpose for the meeting (i.e. planning a year for Christian Education, or Stewardship response, or mission for a church).
- Call a meeting, allowing for about 2 hours of time. This is based on 8 to 10 people in the group.
- Gather in a comfortable place.
- After the group has gathered, the Discerner of Song leads a hymn and the Weaver offers a prayer.
- A passage from Scripture is read.
- The Weaver asks the God question. Each person in the group (in no particular order) is asked to share their story. The stories are told without comment from the other members of the group. It is usually a good idea for both the Weaver and Discerner of Song to offer their own stories.
- After each story, the Discerner of Song (who has been praying during the telling of the story) suggests a hymn to be sung by the group. The group then sings.
- Once all of the stories have been offered, the Weaver (who has been praying and listening carefully to each story) links all the common threads from each of the stories told. It is a good idea to name each person during this weave. The weaver might say something like, “In the telling of the stories we just experienced 7 generations” or “As we heard the stories we went around the world 3 times.”
- Allow the group to discuss the experience and what common links they themselves heard or experienced.
- The Weaver then articulates the purpose for the meeting (see point #1) and listens.
- If there are children present they will probably speak first (as long as the adults are not too controlling... but AG supports that release of control). The ideas the children share should provide a fairly strong foundation and direction for the group. The adults may then, and only then, use their experience to build on the foundation laid. This part of the process usually comes together very quickly.
- The group sings a final hymn and prays.
- 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 to an existing vision.
- AG appears to transcend cultural barriers.
- The presiders cannot assume an outcome to the meeting! AG allows normal agendas to go out the window and openness to the Holy Spirit and her guidance. (In Myers-Briggs language, this is VERY “P” and not very “J”!)
- We have found that the music is best sung without instrumentation (although drums, tabletops, hands, and feet work great).
- If, for example, you want to plan a Christian Education Program, you don’t have to get all the “Christian Ed people” to have this meeting. Any 8 - 10 people from the congregation (as different as you want them) will do and be able to develop a program or response. (This is not to say one does not have to pay attention to congregational buy-in.)
- For those of us who have done AG, it is one of the scariest things we have ever had to do... but the results are well worth the time and energy.