A Generational Love:
A Reflection on Calling at First United Methodist Church,
Lakeland, Florida

By: Katya Kozachuk

Lakeland Florida is home to over a dozen lakes, a few alligators, and the beloved Born & Bread Bakehouse. A typical Saturday morning in Lakeland consists of going to the farmers market and grabbing a couple of beignets from The Poor Porker. It’s a small but quaint city filled with artists, coffee, and culture. Lakeland, Florida is full of a delightful charm, especially when taking a stroll through the historic district to admire the homes with wrap around porches. As you walk down Success Avenue, you’ll be greeted by both Lake Morton and the First United Methodist Church.

People at the First United Methodist church are taking a closer look at understanding God’s calling. Especially important for a Florida congregation filled with a its share of snow birds and retirees, they’ve discovered that calling isn’t just this one-time goal in life, but rather people have multiple callings throughout their lifespan. People who are inching closer to retirement, have realized that there is a calling emerging from their retirement. So, God is continually drawing us in at every stage and moment of our lives, so that we may know God’s love in a more in-depth and intimate way. Calling isn’t just a thing we accomplish with God, but rather it’s an essential aspect of the lifelong relationship with our God. A relationship that challenges us to stay open to God’s love moving and shaping us throughout every season of our lives.

God’s movement throughout the different ages and seasons of our lives is beautifully captured at First United Methodist Church when they began intergenerational calling nights. These nights were created to expose children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly to ideas about calling. At first, families would just sit together and talk through the different ideas around calling. However, midpoint through the series, the staff coordinating this night encouraged and challenged the different participant to branch out from just talking to their family members.

And in these intentional times of mingling with a variety of people from different generations, an unlikely friendship was formed. This friendship is between a 70-year-old woman, a 13-year-old, and the 13-year old’s mom. Somehow, during the mingling, they sat at the same table. They realized that they both went to the same service, but outside of going to the same service, they were practically strangers. It was in this intentional space that they realized for this season, they were being CALLED to be in relationship with one another. Thus, part of calling is people. Called to be in relationship with one another, particularly with those who might be different than ourselves.

What we can all learn from First United Methodist Church is that to be called is to be in a lifelong relationship with God and with the people around us. Calling challenges, us to remain open and trust that God through the Holy Spirit is creating new ways for us to patriciate in God’s love with and through the people “entrusted to our care”
Not only does calling challenge us to remain open, but it invites and teaches us to see God’s goodness in the people around us through every stage of life.

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