Aging Well: Wisdom, Understanding, and Long Life

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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.

older adult playing piano

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. 

Joy W Cole

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Milestones as Stepping Stones in Your Faith Journey

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BY BETH HAYES | 

Milestones as Stepping Stones in Your Faith Journey

I just returned from a symposium in Connecticut done by Lifelong Faith Associates on families at the center of faith formation. It was quite the experience to be in a beautiful fall setting where leaders in churches from different denominations gathered to brainstorm. In our brainstorming, we planed ways for our congregations to celebrate family and help families to be more intentional about faith formation in their homes. More and more I realize that faith formation is not solely a congregational responsibility nor totally a home responsibility, but the two places working together.

The conference gave me many things to ponder, but most helpful was a reintroduction to “milestones ministry.” It is an essential tool for faith formation in the twenty-first century. Simply put, this ministry nurtures Christian faith, strength, and relationships. In churches and homes, it provides a way to reach out to others with the love of God in very simple and practical ways for all generations. Visit the website milestoneministry.org to read and learn more about church and home being vital places in the world. It is based on five important principles:

  • Faith is formed through relationships. Milestones Ministry brings a cross generational community together to nurture the Christian faith.
  • It is a primary partnership between the ministry of the home and the ministry of the congregation. Each module helps people practice faith with the support of a congregation and in and through ones homes.
  • It honors home as church too. It lifts up daily life relationships, especially parents and other adult mentors.
  • Faith is caught more than it is taught. It models the faith through cross generational experiences and faith practices.
  • If we want Christian children and youth, we need Christian adults around them.

There are five steps to generate a specific milestone memory. You need to first name it – identify meaningful, memorable moments. Then you need to equip it – provide faith practices. A blessing comes next as you offer a prayer. It needs a visual reminder… so gift it. The last step is to reinforce it, by following up to firmly root it in faith.

Children's Festival

Children’s Festival and Lovefeast. August 2016. Photo by Suzy Tucker.

About two years ago, the Children and Family task force produced a piece called Moravian Milestones and Stars. We visited every Regional Conference of Churches and gave a notebook to each church to have. Included are age level breakdowns of what Moravians could be expected to know at each age level. The second half of the piece is a resource from Milestones Ministries where specific milestones such as baptism, mission trips, going off to college, empty nesting and many more are described and ways to celebrate these times both in church and in homes. If you have misplaced the notebook or need another copy, all you need to do is ask me for a replacement.

I have heard some beautiful stories about how milestone ministries are carried out in specific churches. One congregation adorns their hallways leading to the various classrooms with ribbons for each individual. When a milestone is reached and celebrated, a star is placed on the ribbon. Some churches give a bowl or basket at baptism. For each celebration of a specific milestone, a particular stone with the image of that milestone on one side and scripture on the other is given to put in the bowls. An illustration of the rocks is shown. A friend of many of our educators has covenanted to spend her retirement painting these milestone rocks. If you are interested in the rocks, you may contact me and I will put you in touch with Libby Welter or you may email her at libbywelter[AT]gmail.com and tell her what you are wanting.

My next move to encourage our congregations and families is to create some Moravian specific milestones like a first lovefeast, first Easter sunrise service, first Laurel Ridge experience, or first Children’s Festival. You will hear more to come in the next few months as we continue to brainstorm together and create new milestones. Until then, consider beginning this all important ministry in your congregation. You can contact me (Beth Hayes) for help in getting it started. As you continue to see the importance of church and families at home working together, check out the website and Facebook page for Roots and Wings where we will continue to link you to important articles and websites that could be helpful.

And remember this passage from Deuteronomy 6:6-7 as the basis for the importance of this ministry.

 

                                    “Memorize his laws and tell them to your children

                                    Over and over again. Talk about them all the time,

                                    Whether you’re at home or walking along the road

                                    Or going to bed at night or getting up in the morning.”

(Common English Version)


If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Below, Beth appears with her sister, aunt, and cousin along with the family Bible.  

Looking at a Bible

Who Would Have Thought?

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BY DOUG RIGHTS |

It has been almost two months since I received some not-so-good news. This news finds me saying to myself, “Who would have thought?”

Who would have thought that the membership of our Southern Province would have declined as it has? Especially since the Moravian Church has so much to offer, including our rich and wonderful history, our special and meaningful traditions, our emphasis on God’s love than on God’s judgment, our value of community, our desire to serve others, and our willingness to accept people with different opinions.

Who would have thought that the financial giving from our Southern Province churches to our province would have declined so much these past several years? Certainly part of this is due to our decline in membership. Yet sometimes I wonder how many of us Southern Province Moravians prayerfully consider what God wants us to give and give that amount. How many of us consider God’s guideline of tithing and tithe or try to work toward tithing? How many of us see the importance of giving not only to our church families, but also the importance of how our giving goes to ministries in our province and ministry to the world?

Young Adult Moravians

Young Adult Moravians (YAMs) at a recent cookout/bonfire event.

And who would have thought our province would be at a point when we could not support a person working full-time with the youth and young adults of our province? Our Board of Cooperative Ministries shared the recent news of a shortfall in our next year’s budget. I think it is really more of a “big-fall.” Our board had to make the very tough decision that it could no longer support a full-time person to serve as Director of Youth, College and Young Adult Ministries.

This decision is my not-so-good news. I am sad I will not be able to continue to serve in a capacity that I have loved these past four years. It has been a joy and a privilege to serve our youth, college age and young adults of the province. Now I look forward to the next step God has for me.

But the greater sadness I feel, along with many others, is that of not having someone in this position. The members and staff of the Board of Cooperative Ministries will do all they can to keep our youth, college, and young adult ministries going. We hope this will also be a time when people will step up and help our youth and young adults feel even more wanted, more loved, and more connected to our churches.

My hope and prayer is that the day will come when I can say: Who would have thought that despite the lack of funds and a full-time staff person, our youth, college, and young adult ministries continue to be strong? That these ministries will thrive in even greater ways, and that our youth, college age and young adults will help bring renewal to our churches and our province!


Read the original announcement about the discontinuation of the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries position here.

Read the questions and answers post regarding that announcement here.


If you have questions or need additional information, email (drightsATmcsp.org) or call the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries at (336) 722-8126.

The Rev. Doug Rights is the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries at the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). 

Doug with wife Kathy

Disunity in the Unity: Resolving Church Conflict

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BY RUTH COLE BURCAW |

In my work, ironically, I hear a lot about disunity. You’d think that those of us who come together to praise God, to grow spiritually, and to serve the world could find a way to do so without conflict. But like every other church in the world, we fight.

And I’m not talking about disunity around big, difficult issues or the essentials, though that happens too. I’m talking about disunity around the little things that somehow become big things . . . the color of the choir robes, whether we sit or stand for that hymn right before the sermon, what to do about ineffective volunteers, how to handle a difficult person, and more. You know what I mean.

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And all too often, we find ourselves unable or unwilling to address that conflict in any meaningful way. “That’s none of my business,” “The preacher should handle that,” “If I say anything, I’ll make them mad,” “It’s not that big a deal,” or “I’m just going to ignore that until it (or they) go away.”

In our church sanctuaries, fellowship halls, and meeting rooms, we face crucial confrontations and we’re not sure what to say. So, we stay silent, or engage in gossip, or go on the attack. When we fail to hold others accountable in ways that are both direct and respectful, what often begins as simple disagreements can grow into chronic dysfunction.

We as a Church already face numerous, significant challenges from outside our walls. Can we really afford to follow that sacred adage “in all things, love,” even when it’s clear that too much of that “love” and not enough accountability are actually tearing us apart?

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Consider this: not all conflict is bad. Most of us recognize that productive conflict can improve and even deepen our relationships, particularly in friendship, marriage, and business. But somehow, when it comes to church, we avoid conflict in the name of love, or preserving friendship, or saving time. In fact, open debate and disagreement often produces the best possible solution in the shortest amount of time.

How do we overcome the fear of conflict?

  • Acknowledge that conflict can be productive and that our natural tendency is to avoid it. Just say that out loud. In a meeting. More than once. It is critical that leaders model appropriate conflict behavior. By avoiding all conflict – even that which is necessary and productive — we add to the resulting dysfunction, which is unhealthy for everyone.
  • Consider having someone on your board or committee assume the role of “miner of conflict” — someone whose role it is to uncover buried disagreements and call attention to sensitive issues which the team must work through. The “miner” needs to remain objective and the group should commit to staying with the conflict until it is resolved. This responsibility could shift depending upon the issue being discussed.
  • Coach each other through the conflict. A simple behavioral covenant serves as a reminder for how to engage one another. Or perhaps group members agree to remind each other not to retreat from healthy debate. Once the discussion is over, participants can revisit the idea that conflict is good for the group and not something to be avoided. This creates a culture where healthy conflict is encouraged and valued.
  • Take advantage of resources that enable group members to learn about their own conflict styles, behavioral preferences, and personality styles. Knowing more about our own styles can prove useful in managing organizational conflict. There are dozens of assessments out there that can provide helpful insight. The Board of Cooperative Ministries provides several different workshops around healthy conflict and other issues of relevance to congregations. We’d love to come out to your church and help you use these tools to encourage productive conflict and healthy community.

People can learn healthy confrontation skills and when they do, churches benefit.

Future posts will explore specific skills that we can use before, during, and after a conflict. Why wouldn’t we work to make sure we never have fewer brothers and sisters than God has sons and daughters?


References

Lencioni, Patrick. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002.

Patterson, Kerry, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.


rcb at fourRuth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries. She and her family are members of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. Here she is when her daddy was the preacher at Grace Moravian Church in Mount Airy, NC.