I caught the end of an interview with the social researcher Hugh Mackay on ABC radio this week. He has been doing the rounds of media spruiking his latest book called “Australia Reimagined”. The title of his new book catches my attention because it is similar to the title of John Roberto’s book “Reimagining Faith in the 21st Century” that has been partly informing our work on an Intergenerationally focussed community in my parish. What is it about the time that we are living through that we need to re-imagine the way we might move forward in Australia and our church?
In the little bit of the interview that I heard, I got the sense that Hugh was lamenting the loss of relationship between neighbours. Not just within our suburbs but in each street and with the person next door. With our mobility and increasing electronic dependence, we tend to seek out those who are like ourselves. People with the same opinions, hobbies and worldview among other things. There are few places where we are challenged to live with those who are different from ourselves. It is a skill to live beside someone you did not choose and to find ways not just to tolerate but support, learn from and indeed care for one another. But this skill seems to be a bedrock of a healthy and caring society.
It appears then that all our technological advantages, as well as our mobility, seem to be increasing our isolation. We are observing more and more social dislocation and increased anxiety and depression. Hugh Mackay described these mental health manifestations as a hidden epidemic.
I think John Roberto’s “Re-imagining Faith” expresses a similar sentiment except in this case it is the increasing dislocation between the generations that is in focus. The unprecedented change that we have seen in our world over a century has seen the development of distinctive generational characteristics such that we give each succeeding generation a new name; Boomers, Builders, Silent Generation, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, Millennials etc. We have found it easier to work within these generations instead of learning to work with the difference that a variety of ages bring.
At the heart of being the church is being a living example of God’s desire for connection. By connection, I mean that very human need for caring relationship one with another that flows out of knowing the love of God. The Good News of Jesus Christ challenges the dislocation and isolation that our culture appears to embrace. To be the church is to live this connectedness with the very people we find ourselves worshipping with on a Sunday morning and inviting others to join us. By doing this, we will be proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God that leads to a life that is characterised by love for all. We will also be challenging ourselves and our local communities with the Gospel of reconciliation to live more connected lives with those who are different across the generations and in the streets we live in.