Loretto Attends Presentation by Harvard Divinity School Fellows
By Lisa Reynolds and Sally Maresh
Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile, the two Harvard Ministry Innovation Fellows who were part of the Emerging Forms presentation at our 2017 Assembly, spoke in Denver April 17, on “Responding to the Needs Of Millennials: ‘How We Gather.’ The Harvard Women’s Studies in Religion hosted their talk. The research focused on Millennials finding new and sometimes surprising ways to meet their needs for spirituality and community. From CrossFit to community meals, art collectives to non-traditional holiday celebrations, young people are building community to address the isolation and loneliness prevalent among generations who are often no longer part of traditional communities or families.
Contributing factors to transition
Factors contributing to this transition include an institutional crisis in trust and practice in pilgrimages and Artisans’ Asylum to create crafts, celebrate holidays and to find sanctuary to prevent loneliness, knowing that the arts often bring marginalized people together.
Several other examples show that everything from liturgy to “finding your soul” is part of community. Even though traditional language of religion isn’t used, the parallels are there. Religious behavior is developing in secular settings. All include six themes:
• Social transformation and mission
• Personal transformation
• Accountability and concern
• Creativity — exploring one’s self
• Purpose — unlocking personal gifts
• Community — an “umbrella” where you’re known and loved
Innovative communities within traditions
Additionally, Thurston and ter Kuile found innovative communities within traditions that are both emergent and traditional such as:
• Middle Circle (shared values and experiences)
• Living School for Action and Contemplation (Richard Rohr)
• House for All Sinners and Saints (inclusivity)
• Moishe House (support, housing for Jewish 20-somethings)
Common characteristics of these communities:
• Create what they don’t have and can’t find
• Fulfill pastoral roles in serving life needs
• Offer best “products” of religious communities
• Find all of the things that someone in that role would need but doesn’t have:
– training & authorization/blessing
– mentors and elders
– financial models
Thurston and ter Kuile spoke at length about the wisdom of women religious being both evident to these younger people and appealing.
Thurston and ter Kuile spoke at length about the wisdom of women religious being both evident to these younger people and appealing. In Burlingame, Calif., five Millennials (part of the Nuns and Nones group) live in community with sisters at a convent.
Lydia Peña, Anna Koop and Marty Lally joined us at the conference. Having the opportunity to talk with the presenters personally was a poignant reminder that the work we are doing in Loretto to find ways to respond to the needs of everyone, especially Millennials and those seeking community and spirituality with similar social justice values, continues to be critically important.
“Our life in community in the present time empowers us for mission and is itself an expression of mission. Rejoicing in and strengthened by our mutual love, we go forth to meet our farther neighbors in their human needs and aspirations. We seek to reach out beyond boundaries imposed by any differences that tend to separate us.” (IATW #35)