Saturday, August 24, 2019


It is a fascinating experience to journey with a church that is eighty years old this year. Unlike a church that is one-hundred-and-eighty, or a church that is one-thousand-and-eighty, a church that is eighty years old likely displays the likeness of an eighty-year-old.

This church is unlike others I have known: churches full of young adults, wrestling with who and with whom they are; churches with significant numbers of mature adults, wrestling with how to give away who they have become, to invest in others. But this is a church of seniors, wrestling with senior concerns.

This is not an exhaustive list, but observations in progress. Not the last word, but first words.

[1] The primary concern of an eighty-year-old church is its own impending death. This is in no way a criticism. It is, in fact, a great opportunity. The church itself, of course, has every chance of life beyond this death; but for now, it is facing congregational death for the first time. Dying is not something we do well by accident; and a good death is our last and greatest gift to those around us. It involves learning to be fully present to life, perhaps for the first time since childhood. Simultaneously, it involves a letting-go, that, again, does not come naturally; and a profound (need for) making peace. A church learning to die well is an incredible gift to its neighbourhood, in a society in which death is taboo.

[2] Their relationship with children will be nostalgic. Not, of course, for every individual. There will be many younger, and not so young, members of the congregation who are actively involved in caring for their grandchildren. But, for the church as a collective entity, they are of an age where they have moved beyond having something to give children to needing something from young children. In both directions, this is passive, simply being rather than doing—fully present—and, in both directions, this can be wonderfully beneficial.

[3] It is not for them to take up the battles of our time, let alone the future. From climate change to food and farming to urban living to waste, environmental issues are the greatest concerns of our day. It is unfair to expect eighty-year-olds to engage. When they do—usually prophetic voices who have been seeing and speaking for a longer time—they are a gift to be cherished. Nonetheless, their memory of a time before the great acceleration of consumption in late modernity may help us reimagine a liveable future. Possibly.

As I said, not the last word...

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