I will admit, every once in a while I made a social error, a faux pas, a breach of etiquette. I have learned well from my elders how to behave, but once in a while, I slip. Some of you will know what that feels like – I’m sure that it has happened to others, not just me.
I’ve been thinking about etiquette a lot this week, as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been visiting Canada. The Royal Family always makes me think of social rules and norms, and how they are established and lived out. I have enjoyed watching Prince William and Kate Middleton establish rapport with the people of Canada; through attempts at language inclusivity, sporting events and visiting Slave Lake, AB. They have learned well how to be in relationship.
It makes me think of how I have learned those social rules; I realize that it is because of, and sometimes despite, the church that I have learned how to be in society. When I was a youngster, I engaged in relationship with my elders and learned what good manners were. As I’ve gotten older I continue to observe the older folks in my churches, but I also observe the younger folks that I get to interact with through the wider church.
I see how they interact with each other, and I see how the newer social norms are being lived out. Sure, in my position I get to model a healthy lifestyle for them, but it is imperative for me too, to find my role models not only in the generations that have come before me, but the ones that are coming after me.
I hear the speeches made by graduates in Barriere and Clearwater, I hear of youth around the world making a change, I hear of challenges offered from every generation, I hear the wise words of those older ones who have lived and died; and I know that I have grown because of their witness to the world.
When I think of Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, and he reminds them, “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” he is also reminding us – to be aware of those who are with us now and in all the time to come, as much as those who have gone before.
I had one of my former youth say to me, “When I have kids, they’re going to church. It’s the only place in this society where aim not judged by the way I dress or talk, but aim engaged as an equal.” I am so very thankful that I have been, and continue to be, challenged, loved and grown in relationship with the cloud of witnesses.
Sure, we may continue to make social blunders, but if we have relationships built on mutual trust and respect, hopefully they can be over looked. May your lives be grounded in that challenge and blessing, and may we all remember what we have learned from the wise ones in our lives, regardless of their age.
– by Rev. Graham Brownmiller