Alison Faison

From generation to generation: ancestors, us, and our kids

This morning I drank coffee, ate breakfast, and lit candles: twelve connected in a circle, the 4th candle on the menorah, and the four Advent candles on the angel chimes. It is Winter Solstice, also known as the Longest Night. Tonight we will celebrate a long night transition which generations of our ancestors have experienced. We share the Advent theme of “From Generation to Generation” with A Sanctified Art and countless churches across the United States. How do we remember the good that our ancestors fostered while doing good now, and encouraging a sustainable future for our children? This afternoon we will make lunches for over a thousand people to receive on Christmas Eve. Then we will sing together by candlelight in the chapel. How do these spiritual practices relate to sustainability, stewardship, and Seven Generation Thinking?

While reading Traci Smith’s Treasure Box Tuesday email, I clicked on her recommendation of an article about Seven Generation Thinking. I found an article written by Charlotte Akers from October 13, 2022. I like how Smith relays that “Seven Generation Thinking is common to a number of world belief systems.” Akers pinpoints the Seven Generation Philosophy of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquis) people that claims “the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future.”  

We know that we are a consumer culture, even in our approach to church. Short-term gains are in our minds which could exclude thoughts about the future consequences of our action or inaction. God of the Old and New Testaments shows us the long view about how we, the children of God, are to be in the world. Doing incremental spiritual practices that encourage patience, questioning, discernment, listening, forgiving, and praying can open and quiet our minds so that we can make good sound choices. We can also be more present for our children, senior adults, and neighbors.

Since I did not have to drive my teens to school today, I was able to spend a few moments doing yoga. During that session, I experienced release and remembering, two things necessary to move on from old patterns, advance into growing edges, help body systems flow better, calm the acquisitive mind and heart, and reclaim stillness. When I got to work, an email reminded me to check my year-end investment report. Currently, my family could live simply for one year on retirement savings. I am thankful for that possibility, but also know that I need to work full-time well past age 65. Many people who do not benefit from generational wealth or opportunities for the best-paying jobs (even if qualified) face the fact that they might not get to retire in the way that they want to even if they worked continuously during their adult years. What legacy does that offer the next generation? Charlotte Akers reminds us that Seven Generation Thinking is not just about economic and environmental sustainability, but “all relationships: ecological, cultural, communities, and even our individual wellbeing.” How are we helping to create equitable and just systems that allow all people to access safety, healthcare, and wellbeing?

The article mentions inherited trauma. This morning during savasana (known as corpse or resting pose), I wished my ancestors rest, as I knew about many of the traumas they had experienced. I thought about traumas that I did not know about which seemed to play roles in family systems. I am responsible to be aware of my own inherited trauma and work to keep myself healthy. As an early childhood educator and parent, I understand that children have an amazing capacity to lead their own learning and don’t need to be filled with our information. We facilitate learning by creating safe environments with essential questions and materials for them to spark their own creations. Some of us were shaped by ancestors who thought that direct instruction and no space for feedback was the best way to work with children. Many adults would take personal offense to questioning rather than note that it is an opportunity for conversation and exploration. When something we are learning does not have a definitive answer or offer closure, we can take a breath and know that it is one step in our learning process. When we talk with our children about faith we can share our own doubts and questions without fearing that our children will abandon faith practices. We can walk together and be present in what we are all experiencing, so that we can validate how worthy we are as God’s children. We can apologize to our children and encourage them without fearing losing our authority or credibility. We can do that with our peers as well. As you move through this seasonal transition, may you acknowledge the ancestors that are in your DNA, your spirit, and those Gen Z folks who are shifting to lead a world we know nothing about.  

More to Explore

Celebrating Asian, Asian-American & Pacific Islander Heritages

People living in San Francisco, China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Mongolia, and all over the world celebrate Lunar New Year. The holiday begins on Sunday, January 22 and continues for a week. 2023 is the year of the Rabbit. San Francisco activities kicked off with the Flower Fair on January 14 and will last through the annual Grand Parade on February 4. During Sunday Studio on Lunar New Year, we will encourage children to read the broad range of children’s books featuring stories of Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) families, as well as do activities related to Lunar New Year. It is important that AAPI children see themselves represented in children’s books, history, as well as in dolls and toys. We celebrate AAPI heritage every day, not just during Lunar New Year. I am thankful that SF Unified School District children and youth have a day off to celebrate and commemorate. In a recent SF Chronicle article Mayor London Breed touts that AAPI hate crimes have lowered in 2023. She acknowledges that people still need to look out for one another. The Presbyterian Church USA has written statements against AAPI hate. Here is a statement entitled ‘We see you among us’ from the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly on March 25, 2021.

How interfaith collaboration helps us grow

Calvary Presbyterian Church welcomes families of all faiths. At Calvary, many families have one parent who practices Christianity and another parent who practices another faith or is agnostic or atheist. We can create opportunities to welcome each other and hear each other's faith perspectives. Many children and youth have friends of different faiths at school. It can be difficult to share experiences about Christian faith as many folks don’t want to be associated with negative examples of Christian extremism played out in the world right now. We want to encourage children and youth to normalize sharing their faith in safe spaces, so that they can see the commonalities of age-old Golden Rule values that prioritize people over profits, and advocate for the wellbeing of neighbors. Calvary is a Matthew 25 church, as well as a Sanctuary church, so our values speak from Jesus’ words about radical welcome.

100 things every child should know before confirmation

The next time you are at childcare or Sunday Studio, please pick up a free copy of Rebecca Kirkpatrick’s book 100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation. This book focuses on the practice of planting the seed of faith, feeding the soil of each child’s soul, and watching children and youth grow. We want them to know the oral tradition roots that originate with the Israelite People, the Gospels that tell the life of Jesus, the acts of Jesus’ followers, and the liturgical seasons of the church starting with Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.