Bennett (left foreground), secretary, Committee on Older Adult
Ministries, is anointed with oil by Bishop Violet Fisher at the
concluding communion service of the Symposium on Older Adult Ministries
held in Nashville, Tenn., March 27-29. The symposium brought together
people from 46 of the 64 annual conferences in the United Methodist
Church with an emphasis on energizing and inspiring those working in
older adult ministries to get more church members involved. A UMNS photo
by James Fox. Photo number 03-132, Accompanies UMNS #207, 4/9/03
No Long Caption Available for this Story
at the first Symposium on Older Adult Ministries, raise their hands to
give themselves a pat on the back in congratulations for completing the
symposium. The symposium, held March 27-29, brought together people from
46 of the 65 annual conferences in the United Methodist Church with an
emphasis on energizing and inspiring those working in older adult
ministries to go back to their conferences and get more church members
involved. . A UMNS photo by James Fox. Photo number 03-133, Accompanies
UMNS #207, 4/9/03
No Long Caption Available for this Story
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - In the United States, 35
million adults - 12.5 percent of the population - are 65 or older, and
that number will more than double in the next three decades.
the United Methodist Church, nearly half - 48.4 percent - of the
membership is already over 65, according to the U.S. Congregational Life
Survey in 2001.
"The United Methodist Church is graying faster
than the country," said Shirley Painter, chairperson of the Older Adult
Committee on Aging.
Now is the time to establish active,
committed older adult committees or councils in each annual (regional)
conference, Painter added.
The first Symposium on Older Adult
Ministries, held March 27-29, brought together people from 46 of the 64
annual conferences in the United Methodist Church with a major emphasis
on energizing and inspiring those working in older adult ministries to
go back to their conferences and get more church members involved.
Keynote speakers, panel discussions, workshops and worship services were held at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville.
Marie Thibault, gerontologist at the University of Louisville Hospitals
and author of A Deepening Love Affair, opened the symposium by talking
about the future of aging.
"The future belongs to the aging until
2050," she said. "(The age) 120 is the estimated biological lifespan
(without genetic manipulation) for human beings. You need to plan for
living 120 years."
Bishop Violet Fisher of the New York West
Area ended the symposium with a powerful, inspirational service, "Who's
Hand Is On Your Shoulder?" Participants were anointed with oil and sent
forth to work for older adult ministries.
The event was
co-sponsored by the United Methodist Committee on Older Adult Ministries
and the Board of Discipleship's Center on Aging and Older Adult
Ministries. Money from the 2000 General Conference Comprehensive Plan
for Older Adult Ministries was used to fund the symposium, said the Rev.
Richard Gentzler Jr., center director. Each annual conference was
invited to send a representative to the symposium.
Herb Bowman, a
participant from the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference, said Thibault's
address emphasized the positives of growing older.
"She said old
age is sometimes thought of in pretty negative terms, but it shouldn't
be. We don't think about getting old as quality time," said Bowman,
director of senior adult ministries at Littleton (Colo.) United
Gentzler held a workshop on the role of annual
conferences in older adult ministries. The Committee on Older Adult
Ministries will be sending legislation to the 2004 General Conference,
the denomination's top legislative body, calling for a council on older
adult ministries to be established in each conference. The assembly will
meet in Pittsburgh, April 27-May 7.
Robbie Youngblood, director
of older adult ministries at First United Methodist Church in Austin,
Texas, said she gained valuable information from Gentzler's workshop.
don't have a council in our conference," she said. "I am 82 years old,
and I want to do all I can to help older adults feel they are an
important part of the church family."
Bill Bunker, a
representative from the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, said he left
the symposium enthusiastic about "reactivating older adult ministry in
"We have to get across to our people (older
adults) that they are a valuable asset to the community and to the
church and to themselves," said Elizabeth Thille, from the Kansas East
Conference. "They just have to keep on living the Christian life. Even
if they are physically not able, there are still many things they can do
to serve the Lord." Thille is director of older adult ministries at the
United Methodist Church of Resurrection in Leawood, Kan.
often, older adult ministry is "pushed to the back burner" or gets cut
from church budgets, Thille said. Being able to network with other
conference leaders was an opportunity to learn what was available and to
hear what other churches were doing, she said. She also heard of many
resources she had not been aware of before.
Bowman agreed that networking was a highlight of the symposium for him.
was pleased with the participation from the annual conferences. "I wish
we could have had 100 percent participation, but I think two-thirds is
still good," she said.
"We need a wake-up call for the whole
church, and that is what we were trying to do with this symposium," she
said. "We hope and pray that annual conferences that do not have a very
active older adult committee or council will establish one and offer
adequate support for this important ministry. Older adult ministry is so
vital to the life and to the continued existence of the church."
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*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer.