Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer
This past Sunday I met a wonderful older woman who plays piano at Nutbush Presbyterian Church in Townsville, NC. Following worship, I thanked her for the wonderful addition to the service and asked if she was/ used to be a piano teacher. She explained to me that she is self-taught and began playing for this very church when she was only 15 years old. After moving away for school and to teach school, she found herself back at Nutbush several years later and enjoys playing for them again today.
I thought about her story on the drive home and began to wonder what it might be like to go back to my childhood church as an adult, and even more so as an older, retired adult.
Among the differences that would exist today (in my case, roughly 15 years later) we might find a glimmer of what we knew to be our church. I remember visiting my childhood church several years ago to find out they had just reinstated a game that my friends and I started, “Broom Hockey,” and subsequently had it banned after breaking a window when we were in middle school. The youth who remembered me as their babysitter were so excited to show me this great new game, and I couldn’t help but smile as I remembered being that same age and showing my mom our new game after youth group one night. My aunt, who still attends the church on occasion, found a bulletin covered in notes between me and my friends, preserved between the pages of the hymnal of “our” pew. Somewhere in the attic, among even older boxes, there is a box filled with hopes and prayers for the next 30 years (with the plan to find them again in 2030) my friends and I hid during a lock-in one night. There are also some sadder memories, like the columbarium marker for my friend–another active youth member–who died in a car accident.
What about you? What are your memories of your first church? Are they the ones who gave you your first Bible that I mentioned in last week’s blog? If you were to return today, what would you expect to find? How do you think you react to changes from “the way things were done” when you were there? Do you think you’d be open to them? Resistant to them? Most importantly, how would you take part in their ministry today?
As I talked with the pianist on Sunday, I realized that she had an incredible story to share. I wanted to ask her more questions- what was most important to her at this church? Why did she come back here instead of going elsewhere? What memories did she have here? Who gave her the first opportunity to lead in worship when she was younger?
I find myself inspired by the pianist at Nutbush and look forward to seeing how I am participating in my congregation’s ministry as an older, retired adult and wonder if it might even be back at my first church. It also makes me think about how I can be sure that ministry opportunities are open to adults in congregations that I serve, especially since in many cases they have been there all of their life or are returning home after some time away. Sometimes I wonder if we spend too much time trying to relate to the younger generations and forget about those who have carried us to where we are today.
Those who are older than us can teach us a lot about not just the history of our congregation, but how to minister in new ways.
What opportunities are available for older adults in our congregations to not only lead in worship, but to lead the church through their own experiences and wisdom? How are we connecting generations within the congregation so that the younger members can learn from the older members? What would making our church “home” for our members look like– and not just a place to gather on Sunday morning?
Just a few things to think about, and maybe even ask of our older, life-long members!