If you had only eight words to describe the core of the Christian gospel, it would probably be these:
“Telling Our Story. Sharing the Meal. Working Together.”
Author Ansley Rowan recently described how these core values are lived out at new church start St. Lydia’s Church in Brooklyn, NY in an article at Duke Divinity’s Faith and Leadership site. This community, geared to young adults, took the ancient Christian practice of celebrating the Eucharist as part of a long meal and made it the center of their burgeoning community. Once a week, young adults, (many of whom have apartments too small to cook large meals), come to the church’s rented space, prepare and clean up the meal, and along the way, sing, pray and reflect on scripture together. Church founder Emily Scott said in the article, “’I started to think, ‘There’s a hunger; there’s a need that’s not being met. … What would a church for these people look like?”
I’m not surprised that these ancient practices have taken root at a place like St. Lydia’s. In my experience, young people crave the depth of connection inherent in these practices. On one occasion, I brought a labyrinth in for at-risk youth to try. One teenage girl, notorious for her chaotic attention span, rounded the circular prayer path again and again, never losing focus. I’ve seen otherwise unruly teens sink gratefully into long periods of silent meditation. I’ve witnessed children engaging scripture reflection practices like Lectio Divina. Outside the church, young and old alike flock to “new age” yoga classes and meditation groups (which have decidedly ancient roots).
These practices feed a deeper hunger –for connection to those around us, to the ancient clouds of witnesses who have gone before us and to the Divine.
How can you help feed this deeper hunger by innovating a traditional Christian practice in your church? What practices could best serve the needs of young people in your community?