Student: What is the difference between just getting old and being an elder?
Teacher: An elder sees a vocation.
An elder, then, is a person who has perceived a calling – a calling related to their place in life, of not merely the passing of the years but the gaining of experience.
Congregations embrace the future in a variety of ways and through all their people: through the youngest members, all the way through to the oldest. Congregations embrace a multitude of generations – and of vocations. What God calls us to be – and how God calls us – may take different shape at different times in our lives. In later years, that calling may take the shape of an active wisdom – of elderhood.
Since the fall of 2008 I have been engaged in study toward the Doctor of Ministry degree. Currently I am working on my dissertation/project. Part of that project is understanding the nature of elderhood for men within the context of a multigenerational congregation – like Saint Alban’s.
How are they aware of the vocations of elderhood? How they are embraced by and within the context of congregational life?
But – best to ask for elders’ own perceptions.
And so I have been asking older men active in the congregation a few questions.
· How has your faith developed as you have gotten older?
· How has the congregation participated in this growth?
· What calls you now as a vital way to live out your faith?
· How does the congregation embrace or celebrate it with you?
Having now listened to a dozen and a half of the older men active in the congregation, in leadership, worship or service. I am aware of how grateful I am for their participation and their presence in the congregation. As I prepare to evaluate what they have said to me, both common themes and unique perspectives, I look forward to honoring their voices.
For the Gospel Grapevine, parish newsletter of St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash., October 2012.