In their new book, Who’s Got Time: Spirituality for a Busy Generation, Teri Peterson and Amy Fetterman build a case for giving spirituality a chance, aimed at Millennials and young Gen Xers. Both pastors in the Presbyterian Church (USA), they use both their theological education and their ministry experience to create a foundation for exploring spirituality in the real world of the 2010s.
I am a back-edge Baby Boomer, and the mother of three Millennials, all younger than the authors but clearly living in the same world. I entered adulthood believing that with hard work and a little bit of luck, someday I would live in the suburbs with my lawyer spouse and drive my kids around in a Volvo 240 with a golden retriever in the back. Maybe we would have a pool. None of that seemed unreasonable at the time, although most of it didn’t come to pass exactly.
My kids live in a very, very different world. It’s hard to imagine any of them living into that fantasy I had. The oldest lives in an urban tribe of friends from college and other actors and aspiring theatre professionals. The second is in grad school training for a career that may or may not pan out, regardless of his gifts and hard work, because symphony orchestras are going the way of the Dodo, just like churches, as the older generation that supported such institutions dies off having lost wealth in the stock market downturn of the late Oughts.
I went back to church as soon as I had a child, after a brief break for college. No one had to suggest it. It was just a thing you still did in the mid-1980s. I was young enough not to have formed a lot of contrary habits. Now childbearing comes later, as does marriage (and not necessarily in the order my parents’ generation would have assumed). What will get my children, now adults, to go to church? And can they have a spiritual life without it?
The answer to the latter is clearly yes, and Peterson and Fetterman, while not discouraging church-going at all, don’t hammer on it either. In thematic chapters, they invite the reader into a way of looking at all areas of life for their spiritual potential. They refer to popular culture and tell their own stories to illustrate the grace offered by yoga, the frustration of trying to find God in a garden when a groundhog has eaten the tomatoes, the value of confession (if not in Real World style for most of us), the palpable reality of relationships we form online and even a list of things to consider when gathering your own in-person spiritual community. Each chapter ends with suggestions for spiritual practice and recommendations for further reading.
Here’s a thing I love: the footnotes. If you want to know more about something they’ve written, it’s almost always expanded upon in a footnote.
Here’s a thing I didn’t love: the print is ever-so-tiny. This is a publisher’s issue, not an author’s issue, but it did cause me to put the book down when I really wanted to keep reading.
I would highly recommend this book to both its target audience and to the parents of its target audience, as well as to church leaders considering meaningful outreach to them. Not only do Peterson and Fetterman effectively communicate the possibility and desirability of a spiritual life to their age cohort, they paint a picture of the world that generation inhabits with honesty and authenticity. They also achieve a consistency of voice I appreciated, identifying themselves in the context of a particular anecdote, but otherwise managing a style that did not distract with obvious changes of viewpoint.
Last, in the interest of full disclosure, I know both the authors in person and can vouch that they are delightful people.