A generation ago the sociologist Peter Laslett reported to a committee of Parliament on the concerns and needs and challenges facing a cohort of British subjects: those approaching, reaching, or living in retirement. Based on extensive research he identified a new “Third Age” of life: after childhood and youth, younger adulthood, and before old age. (Awkward terminology is a sign of the freshness of his ideas.) These older adults he called, in their potential, “trustees of the future.”
What he saw was an era of, potentially, personal fulfillment, after the work of earlier adulthood – its responsibilities, demands, and rewards – a time of freedom to pursue goals broader in scope and longer in vision than the immediate tasks of career and household.
Older adults, especially those in retirement, gain perspective based on not only longer experience of the past, but on the possibilities of the future. They may have the ability to contribute uniquely to a vision of a hopeful future. That is the challenge of a generation.
As we all affirm, children are the future. How to make that the best future possible is the job of all of us, the whole family, the whole community, and, the whole people of God.
Indeed, we will be welcoming two young new members into the household of God, when we celebrate the sacrament of baptism on the feast of the Baptism of our Lord, January 13, 2013.
When we affirm, at Baptism, that we will do all in our power to support these persons in their life in Christ, we are taking on this task, as a community, in the power of God.
We cannot affirm, without God’s help, that we will be able to see this through. But with God’s blessing upon us and the presence of the Holy Spirit among us, we should be able to take on this challenge.
This is one, concrete, immediate way that we the people of God can respond to the calling to act, think, and pray as “trustees of the future.”
As we move into a new year in the secular calendar and in the life of the church, let us also move forward into a new sense of our unity in faith and action, our common mission.
The mission of the Church is the mission of Christ: to restore all people to unity with God and each other – and to aid all people in living into the fullness of life in abundance.
Peter Laslett, A Fresh Map of Life: The Emergence of the Third Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991) 7, 196.
For the Gospel Grapevine, parish newsletter of Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash. (Epiphany 2013)