It is a blessing to be able to honor the senior members of our churches, many of whom have served their churches in different capacities through the years.
A resolution passed at the General Convention in 2003 led to the establishment of the Task Force for Older Adult Ministries whose work was reaffirmed in 2012. Resolution D004 of the Episcopal Church’s 2009 General Convention created the Older Adult Ministries Task Force, citing such facts as (1) one in every eight Americans is age 65 or older, (2) over one in four of those age 65 and older live alone, and (3) within 10 years, the age 85+ population will increase by 40%. It charged the task force with developing “a comprehensive plan to raise awareness and address the emerging crisis in health, caregiving, and faith issues which cross generational and economic lines with emphasis on support of congregational, diocesan, and provincial programs for older adult ministry.” The group was challenged to find answers to the following set of questions:
- How do we recognize, honor, and utilize the experience, wisdom, and gifts of older adults?
- How do we develop ministries that integrate and weave multiple generations together spiritually?
- How do we cultivate Christ’s message of hope and service for older adults, families, and their caregivers?
- How do we examine, explore, and create innovative and contemporary liturgical, spiritual, and service ministries by, with, and for all generations in the Body of Christ?
Clearly, the Church has entered a new age in the 21st century for which it is largely unprepared, with the fastest growing segments of the population being octogenarians and centenarians. The growing number of older adults as well as an aging population present the Church with challenges as well as unparalleled opportunities for learning, for service, for advocacy, for evangelism, and for theological reflection. The Church has a unique treasure in its biblical witness which emphasizes the “moral and spiritual growth of those seeking to become mature in wisdom,” and actually celebrates age, with “some 175 references to elders.” The gospels show us how Jesus chose to associate with those most scorned by their societies; the Church can assume a powerful and needed countercultural role in witnessing that age is to be regarded as a gift and not exclusively as a burden. We pray that the Diocese of New Jersey, as we develop a strong program building on its legacy of care for older adults, will also become a resource to the larger church. We are committed to making this happen and seek your prayers and suggestions as we begin. For more information about the committee and the work they are doing, contact co-chairs:
The Rev. Jane Brady-Close or The Rev. Sharon Sutton.