What does aging mean to you?
For some, it conjures up experiences of loss. For some, loss of employment means not only less income but just as important, loss of purpose. Many older individuals come to the point of needing to move into a smaller, more convenient home or location and grieve the loss of the home and things that were dear to them. This can also be accompanied by a loss of independence, the ability to hear, move and drive. Some lose friends and relatives, and worst of all, their health.
For others, aging brings greater happiness. Not everyone retires. Some enjoy working long after the usual retirement age, not because they need to but because they enjoy it. Others take on greater volunteer roles and become more active in civic engagement. Many older adults enjoy time for hobbies they didn’t have when they were younger or finally have significant time and resources to travel. Being a grandparent is the greatest joy for many older adults, a role that is accompanied by the ability to pass on the wisdom of many years of living and the joy of telling stories!
No matter how you perceive aging or what your experience of growing older has been, to age well we all need God, friends and relationships, and the church. And that is why the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren, with the blessing and encouragement of our pastors and Nurture Commission, is developing a ministry for those who are 55 and older. This is not just a series of social events, although they may well continue to be a part of the program. Instead, we see this as a ministry to the whole person, one designed to meet the social, emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual needs of persons who are 55 and older in our congregation. Modeled, at this point, on the Prime Time ministry of the Ephrata Church of the Brethren, we will make it our own by developing our own goals as well as activities and programs to meet these goals. It will incorporate activities we already do well and add others where need is indicated. Maybe these will include a transportation program, a small group for those experiencing grief, seminars on using technology and downsizing, mentoring youth in an after school program, or a foster grandparent program. What would you envision?
Imagine, if you will, a wheel with the senior adults (more than 300 of them are currently active in our congregation) as the hub. We see the older adult ministry as the tire that encircles all these activities and more. We see this ministry as working to meet all the needs of our seniors. We want to ask the questions—What do you want? What do you enjoy doing? What helps you grow in faith? What challenges do you face? We want those who are seniors to be a part of answering those questions, defining our purpose, and where we go from there. Once we define that, we see the programs and activities that evolve from this discussion as the spokes on the wheel. We imagine the wheel traveling on a bumpy road—life’s journey from 55+ to death—sometimes smooth, sometimes bumpy with rocks to navigate like those described above, but one that does not scare us because of our friends, our faith, and our church.
To kick off this program, we want to invite you to an evening of food and fellowship at the Kopp’s Farm, Sept 24 at 5 pm. Register here! Besides enjoying the fellowship of friends, we will take a few moments to further explain the program and ask for volunteers to meet with Deb Ziegler, Gina Strouse and Pastor Pam to brainstorm a vision statement, set some goals and begin to develop some programs and activities to meet these goals. We will start slowly, but the possibilities are endless! We hope you will want to join us in this new endeavor!
Submitted by Gina Strouse, Nurture Commission