“Just as we reach back to our ancestors for our fundamental values, so we, as guardians of that legacy, must reach ahead to our children and their children” —Paul Tsongas
More than 100 youth, seniors and all ages in between spent the afternoon reaching back, ahead and across the years at the first “Bridging the Generational Gap” Luncheon sponsored by the St. John Mission and Outreach Ministry on Saturday, August 27, 2016. The energized group of youth and community supporters gathered at the Keaser Lloyd Community Center to honor church and community seniors ages 70 through 101 years.
More than 25 seniors from the Saint John congregation and the community were recognized for their work in the church with family and in community.
“It is an honor to celebrate all the seniors for what they have seen, experienced and endured,” said Reverend Michael Parker, new to the pastorate of the St. John congregation. “It certainly is a testament to the younger ones of us, to let us know that we can make it too.”
The event is the first in a series of activities planned by The St. John Experience, a United Methodist Congregation, for church members and residents to strengthen the community by reaching across generational lines, according to event host and organizer, Gloria Jean Smith.
Adrian Mosely, administrator of the Johns Hopkins Office of Community Health was one of the visionaries for the weekend’s inaugural event.
“The vision for me is that I believe it takes a village. I see in everyday life how much that gap is widening. But as we start to see that we’re at different life stages but all have the same desires, the same visions, the same things that we want— it will bring us closer together,” Moseley said.
Marion Jordan was the eldest honoree of the afternoon at 101 years old. Dressed in white, she received not only a framed certificate also given to all the honorees, she received a special commendation from the State of Maryland and was crowned queen of the afternoon’s festivities by event organizers. Her Red Hat club members and friends came out to support her and all the senior honorees.
“I’m so surprised and so thankful,” Jordan said. “I want to thank everyone who invited me here to take part in the program.”
The honorees were served by the youth from the congregation, including Raven Gaither, an 11-year-old Grove Park Middle School student eager to meet the elders and connect with them.
“I’m here to help the older generation and to learn to bond with them,” Gaither said as she served a plate of down home fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and other sumptuous treats to the honorees.
Other youth from across the community and the city including Kenya Chase and Ne’Shae Hillerburton of the Let Go and Let God Mime Troupe came to pay tribute to the city’s elders.
“To continue the cycle of life, the young people should be looking after the old people and the old people their way of giving back is through their wisdom and guidance,” said Hillerburton.
The highlight of the afternoon was a full mini concert by Demetri Reeves, a young Michael Jackson impersonator who had the table of 70-somethings clapping and practicing dance moves in their seats as Reeves moonwalked throughout the room. Reeves spoke to the gathering about the elders who are special in his own life after his performance.
Smith said that the Bridging the Gap luncheon is just the beginning of an effort to harness the strength of a united community.
“Next, we’re going to have an ice cream social and we’re already working on a cookbook,” Smith said. “It’s going to be called Kizzy’s Country Kitchen and Remembrances.”
Reverend Davis said events that bring youth and seniors together are an essential part of Baltimore’s healing after the unrest in 2015.
“One of my sayings for us as a church is ‘fresh ideas plus seasoned wisdom equals Kingdom success,’” Reverend Davis said. “As a city that definitely needs revival renewal and fresh energy, we can gain wisdom, if we allow ourselves to be poured into by the amazing wisdom and energy that these ‘young men and women’ are able to share with us.”