|Older-adult ministry leaders hear call to expand table|
Bishop Violet L. Fisher addresses conference leaders of older adult
ministries at a symposium held Aug. 16-18 at Scarritt-Bennett Center in
Nashville, Tenn. The event was sponsored by the United Methodist Board
UMNS photos by Jeanette Pinkston.
By Jeanette Pinkston*
Aug. 23, 2007 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
The Rev. Vance P. Ross offers a prayer during the opening worship service.
A United Methodist bishop has challenged leaders of the church's
older adult ministries to be more inclusive in inviting people to
"You are responsible for expanding the table and opening up the
table," said Bishop Violet L. Fisher, who leads The United Methodist
Church's New York West Area.
Fisher spoke to more than 100 people representing 41 annual
(regional) conferences during the United Methodist Board of
Discipleship's Symposium for Leaders of Conference Councils on Older
Adult Ministries, held Aug. 16-18 at Scarritt-Bennett Center.
The United Methodist Committee on Older Adult Ministries sponsored
the three-day symposium, which included a variety of workshops led by
Workshop topics included "Cultural Understandings for Older Adults,"
"How to Establish Older Adult Ministries in Congregations," "Global
Aging Issues" and several others.
In addition, representatives to the Committee on Older Adult
Ministries from United Methodist boards and agencies served on a panel
discussion about their agency's work with and resources for older adult
Hearers of the word
Delivering the opening worship sermon, the Rev. Vance P. Ross
preached on "The Great Redemption: Memory and Imagination," using John
3:16 as the text.
"We have folk functioning with no memory and no imagination," said Ross, a staff executive with the Board of Discipleship.
"Have you visited a nursing home lately? They (older adults) have
been cast aside. We have forgotten them. They sit in living mausoleums,"
Ross challenged participants to "take whatever you get here, take it
back and do something with it. Just being hearers of the word is over."
The Rev. Elbert Cole received the Outstanding Leadership Award for
his many years of service to older adults in The United Methodist
The award was presented by Hazel Bennett, chairperson of the Committee
on Older Adult Ministries, and the Rev. Richard H. Gentzler Jr.,
director of the Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministries for the
United Methodist Board of Discipleship.
The Rev. Elbert Cole receives the Outstanding Leadership Award, presented by the Rev. Richard H. Gentzler Jr.
"Throughout his life and at least most of his ministry since 1972 at
Central United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Mo., this man’s vision —
the Shepherd Centers and the whole idea about being in ministry with
older adults — has blessed older adults in The United Methodist Church
and older adults in our country," Gentzler said.
Cole was the founder, former president and chief executive officer of
Shepherd Centers of America, which provide day programs and community
for older adults. He was pastor of Central United Methodist Church,
Kansas City, Mo., when the first Shepherd Center was started. He
has also served the National Council of Churches, the American Society
on Aging and the National Interfaith Coalition on Aging.
'Is the table big enough?'
The symposium concluded with Bishop Fisher preaching the closing
worship and Communion service. She used Luke 14, in which Jesus cautions
people attending a big dinner against trying to sit near the head table
and also advises his host not to invite his rich friends, relatives and
rich neighbors to dinner but to invite instead the poor, the lame and
"I am concerned, my friends, because Jesus said the next time you
prepare a feast, (the next time) you prepare a meal, go out and bring
folk in — folk who would not ordinarily be a part of your table
She challenged the group to ask the questions: Is the table open to racial-ethnic persons?
Is it open for spouses and families of folk who are incarcerated? Is
it open for folk who are challenged in some way? Is the table open for
youth and children? Is the table big enough?
"I keep praying, 'Lord help me.' Is the table big enough for those in the margins of life?"
*Pinkston is director of media relations for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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