"...I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days."To me, this is the ultimate in balance because everyone is included, young and old, men and women. If only the church leadership could get this idea!
I've focused a lot on the Millennium generation and young people and young adults. But there is another segment that tends to get left out-older adults.
I remember as a teenager that the people I got along with best at church were the older adults. You know why? Because they would actually TALK to me! I loved, loved, LOVED the older members of our congregation! And when they couldn't come to church anymore guess who the teens in youth group would go and visit? You betcha-the older adults from our congregation!
I was incredibly blessed as a pre-teen and young teen to meet a lady with an incredible vision! Her name: Winnie Wrisley. Winnie grew up in Waterbury and became a Deaconess within the United Methodist church. She was a teacher and spent many years in New Mexico at a UMC mission school on a Native American Reservation. She retired and came back home to little ole Waterbury, Vermont to take care of her mother. I first met her when she took over the Friday afternoon children's church class. We had a teacher, his name was Charlie. Teaching rambunctious little terrors was not exactly Charlie's gift. He quit so Winnie stepped in to teaching role. I loved her right from the get-go! About that time the Waterbury Center Community church was without a minister and it looked like it was going to have to close its doors permanently. Winnie's mother had been raised in that church and if I remember correctly, her family had been one of the founding families for the church. Guess who decided that retirement was over rated? Winnie.
One of the first things that Winnie did was buy some tape recorders and blank cassettes. They were placed up front right by the lectern and every Sunday service was recorded. Once the service was over, the tape recorders with the cassette tapes were placed in a bag with a bulletin and a hymnal and volunteers delivered them to the members who were no longer able to make it to church on Sunday mornings. She also bought a traveling communion set and would go and offer communion to these members on a regular basis. We young whipper-snappers were called in to help as well! We sang a lot of songs out of the old Cokesbury hymnbook because we knew that it was someones favorite and it would brighten their day when they listened to the service!
Winnie had an amazing gift! She knew how to bridge the generation gap. She didn't see the church family in little segments and slices. Her vision saw everything as part of the whole. There was warp and weave and rhythm. Everything was balanced and in proportion and everyone felt included!
Some of the proposals and programs being put forth by the UMC concern me greatly! In my opinion there is a lot of slicing and dicing and counting going on and a huge thrust to "meet consumer tastes" at the expense of real discipleship! And I'm afraid that older adults have been lost in the shuffle which is a shame! As much as I want to see younger children, youth and young adults included I do not want it done at the expense of older members who are still a part of the congregation whether they can come to church or not! If one lone Deaconess could figure it out back in the late 1970's without the aid of "church growth plans" or consultants why can't our leadership?
Holy Spirit, pour, Pour POUR your vision out on young and old and everyone in between! Help us to see the whole picture and not just focus on pieces and segments. Help us find new and creative ways to serve and disciple all of your children! That my dear darling friends is my prayer. I don't want to see anyone left by the wayside because everyone is a precious child of God!
And Winnie-the rest of the story: she led the congregation at Waterbury Center Community Church for many years and then retired (again) and moved to a UMC retirement home in North Carolina. Among the many things that she did while there was to spend time tutoring at risk youth. She passed away this past winter. Servant right up to the end! I loved her dearly and I miss her greatly! I wish you could have known her!