Black Millennial Faith Journeys

Photo by Nina Strehl

Christian. United Methodist. Preacher’s Daughter.

Titles that I inherited on my Faith journey. Titles that I was not able to choose but taught me everything I needed to know about life, living, and God encounters.

On Friday, I attended “gOD-Talk: A Black Millennials and Faith Conversation,” a series piloted in Los Angeles to explore faith journeys of the millennial generation. The event was held at the California African American Museum and is a joint project of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Pew Research Center. The speakers represented radio stations, various religions, and social justice organizations.

Trauma was a resounding theme.

Millennials have been hurt, silenced, and misunderstood by religious organizations. As children, millennials were curious and desiring deeper explanations of antiquated ideologies. Congregations were not ready.

Discipline was a resounding theme.

A majority of individuals on the panel are among Black Millennials who attended religious services as a requirement, not an option. Youth groups, bible studies, vacation bible school, sabbath services, some millennials on the panel overdosed on religious practices. This taught discipline, commitment, and structure. However, while times were changing, most religious communities did not grow with the times. This left Millennials hungry for more thus, deciding to ditch church and seek the sacred in everyday spaces. Thankfully, based on the stories shared, millennials are happier, more connected, and even more in touch with communities that matter since letting go of the church as the sole keeper of their faith journey.

Life-changing was a resounding theme.

Whether the speakers encountered religious organizations from birth or as a teenager, their lives were changed…for better and for worse.

I am the daughter of a mother who is a Pastor. A granddaughter to Cassie Mae who believed no matter what you did on Saturday night, you must be in church on Sunday. A granddaughter to Dee Dee Safford who believed in supporting local churches in the neighborhood and has attended the same church for over 40 years. I overdosed on religious practices because my mother overdosed on them and her mother. The overdose was inherited. The overdose kept them sane and allowed them a place to lay their weekly burdens down; seeking healing and renewal in a semi safe space (I say semi because gender inequality is real).

Black millennials are climbing mountains on Sundays. Standing in the sun. Engaging in the global community. Brunching with the tribe. Experiencing god or God (depending on your preference) in whichever way we choose because we are privileged to do so. I know I have the choice because my grandmother’s prayers are enough to sustain me throughout my lifetime.