The second set of authors quoted in the Faith Formation 2020 13 Trends article are Richard Flory and Donald E. Miller taken from their work Finding Faith: The Spiritual Quest of the Post-Boomer Generation.
In general they suggest that the Post-Boomers are trying to balance individualism with spiritual meaning and religious experience, trying to bring it together in an embodied faith. In my interpretation, they want a faith outlook that makes sense rationally, makes sense intuitively and emotionally, and yet has some communal experience to celebrate. The authors, who were primarily researching Christian communities, found that many remained connected to their churches, though they tended to do church differently.
They then identified: Four Emerging Forms of the Post-Boomer Spiritual Quest: Innovators, Appropriators, Resisters, Reclaimers.
Quoting the FF2020 article:
Innovators are those who represent a constantly evolving, or innovating, approach to religious and spiritual beliefs and practices. Many of these are newer, less established groups that are affiliated with the “emerging church” movement, while others are established churches and ministries that are innovating within their own traditions. Innovators demonstrate a desire for embracing the emerging postmodern culture, and within that context are engaging in a spiritual quest that by definition is one that must change and adapt – innovate – to meet the changing cultural currents.
Appropriators refer to those churches and ministries that seek to provide a compelling and “relevant” experience for participants, both for those in the audience and for those who are performing the service or event. In this, both churches and independent ministries seek to create these experiences through imitating or appropriating, trends found in a particular form of pop-Christianity primarily oriented toward an individual spiritual experience.
Resisters refer to what are primarily Boomer initiated efforts intended to appeal to Post-Boomers by focusing on “rediscovery of reason” and resisting postmodern culture within Christianity. They (are) hoping to reestablish the place of the written text and rational belief as the dominant source for Post-Boomer spirituality and practice.
Reclaimers are seeking to renew their experiences of Christianity through history, symbolism and practices of ancient forms of faith, such as those still found in liturgical traditions, thus reclaiming the ancient symbols, rituals and practices of these traditions for their own spiritual quest. Reclaimers demonstrate a quest that takes them on a journey to ancient Christian traditions in small, family-oriented congregations through which they pursue their desire for spiritual development.
Of course as a Unitarian minister I need to do a bit of translation. For one thing in most places, certainly in Canada, there aren’t enough of us one the ground to be able to set up small ‘reclaimer’ style congregations, though sometimes we do have interest groups or alternative events within our communities. Of course, with us, the spiritualites being reclaimed may not be limited to Christian practices, but will include earth based expressions, labyrinths and other meditative forms, even yoga.
I find these four categories useful, but only in very broad strokes. Congregations are not homogenous. Within most that I have experienced you will find some of each type of person and, as in the cartoon above, people like Gladys who sometimes strugglingly and sometimes willingly embrace change and new directions. That said, there are also others who, when a congregation elects to go solidly in one direction either theologically or stylistically, feel left behind. They often leave, sometimes angrily.
Generally, I want to see us try to take a big tent approach, to try to develop a variety of programs and activities that satisfy all of these needs. The challenge, as I see it, with accommodating Post-Boomer spirituality in our Boomer-run churches, is finding ways to meld the somewhat different ideas of community that emerge when a ‘one size fits all’ Sunday morning event no longer serves everyone (if it ever really did).
How will the entire community remain connected? From where will we take our congregational identity? Will there be a unifying message? How well will Gladys learn her guitar riffs? Are these even important questions?
So where do you come down? Do you see yourself in one of these categories? In more than one? Let’s talk.