BY JOY W. COLE |
Is not wisdom found among the aged?
Does not long life bring understanding? – Job 12: 12
In 2014, the Board of Cooperative Ministries established a group to address the needs of the older adults in the Southern Province. Thus the Aging Well Team came into being. Our first item of business, of course, was to clarify our purpose, which is to help congregations recognize the need for and find meaningful ways of providing programing and resources for their members who are older adults, as they age and deal with a variety of challenges.
So, how do we define “older adult?” Is it someone who uses the “over 55” Senior Discount? Someone retired? Someone celebrating their 90th birthday? Now that the experts are saying middle age is 53, where does that put “older adults?” Most of us feel like older adults some days and younger adults other days! My father, at age 85, claimed he felt like he was 35. With the average age of Southern Province Moravians being 63, we do know they are approaching some challenging years – from what to do after retirement to how to stay healthy to caring for parents, spouses, or grandchildren.
In the Team’s initial discussions about the various needs of older adults, one major priority was to provide some sort of organized support system for our members. With that idea in mind, the BCM asked the Rev. Tim Byerly to work with our Team in developing a small group discipleship model for congregations. The Living Faith model for groups of 5 or 6 focuses on both spiritual growth and outreach in congregations. You will be hearing more about this in the future. The Team is very excited about this and we have enjoyed working with Tim on the project.
Forty years ago, the late Rev. Lew Swaim started the Provincial Senior Friends Advisory Council, created to support congregational senior friends groups. Many congregations still have an active Senior Friends ministry. The Aging Well Team is now responsible for two of the Advisory Council’s annual traditions. One is the Older Adult Fall Rally. Earlier in October, 120 older adults representing 20 congregations attended the Fall Rally at Fairview Moravian Church. It was a wonderful time of fellowship – a true Moravian reunion. The other tradition is the Older Adult Spring Retreat. The Aging Well Team is making plans for a different approach to the retreat, hosting a one-day event offering sessions addressing the interests and ideas of the Fall Rally participants. Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 at Friedberg Moravian Church. (This will take the place of the retreat at Laurel Ridge in 2017.) We pray this will be a meaningful experience for many of us.
One of our recent projects was to establish an Older Adult Liaison for each of our 54 churches of the Southern Province. Designed to foster better communication with the churches about older adult issues, this position takes the place of the Senior Friends representative. In some churches it is still the same person. The Aging Well Team sends emails to the Liaisons about upcoming provincial activities, free health screenings, health fairs, free flu shots, etc. and any information that we feel would benefit older adults in our churches. (Although chicken pie and country ham play an important role in our lives, that kind of event will not be advertised via the Liaison.) The Liaisons will share the information we send out with their pastor and congregation. We are also asking the Liaisons to become more aware of events and opportunities offered for older adults in their community and share them with their congregation.
Being an older adult can be both challenging and exciting. With guidance from the One who loves us and cares about our needs, the Aging Well Team plans to address those needs and interests through our congregations as life goes on.
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
he is my Rock!” – Psalm 92: 12-15
If you have questions or need additional information, email (joycole14ATgmail.com) or call the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries at (336) 722-8126.
Joy W. Cole is a member at Unity Moravian Church and volunteers her time with the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries’ Resource Center.