Young people define ‘sacred moments’ broadly: From God to nature to relationships

by | Nov 7, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — A majority of young Americans from a variety of faiths and no faith say they have experienced a sacred moment, according to a new survey, but their definitions of what is sacred may not line up with those of their parents or grandparents.Springtide Research Institute’s “The State of Religion & Young People 2023: Exploring the Sacred” pushes back on the notion that Gen Z exhibits a simple disinterest in matters of the divine or the spiritual. Some 55% of the more than 4,500 people ages 13 to 25 who were surveyed told Springtide’s researchers that they have discovered what Springtide called “experiences that evoked a sense of wonder, awe, gratitude, deep truth, and/or interconnectedness in your life.”
Of those who had, 69% said they had experienced a sacred moment more than once in nature, 68% said they’d done so in the privacy of their home, and 55% said at a place of worship. (Respondents could select more than one option.) 
Besides answering the survey, conducted in October 2022, almost three dozen submitted to interviews with researchers who listened to their descriptions of these moments.
“What is your present religion?” (Graphic courtesy Springtide)
Tricia Bruce, director of the Springtide Research Institute, said the report highlights “the prevalence and the overlap of the sacred in nontraditional spaces” even as, increasingly, young people say they have never crossed the thresholds of houses of worship.

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Tricia Bruce. (Photo courtesy Springtide)
“Certainly, we might expect young people to tell us, ‘Yes, I’ve experienced the sacred when I attended a religious service or in prayer,’ and they do, but they also told us ‘I experienced the sacred in nature,’ ‘I experienced the sacred when I got into college,’ ‘I experienced the sacred in a virtual connection,’” Bruce told Religion News Service in an interview.
“Creative spaces that we may not think of as sacred themselves, or as religious, or we may not materially construct as such, young people are telling us that, in fact, that’s where the sacred lives for them.”
Nearly a third of those surveyed — 31% — told Springtide they had never participated in a spiritual or religious community. Also, 72% of young people trust organized religion only somewhat (45%) or not at all (27%).
Bruce said the report has implications for faith leaders, particularly youth ministers, who may have been focusing on answering the question “How do we get young people back?”
Clergy might want to redefine what they consider sacredness, she said. “If we’re looking for the sacred, maybe for young people it does mean goi …

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