Honoring Older Adults

Learning from the Reformed Worship Community

As we did in the last issue of Reformed Worship, we have presented a question to a few of our subscribers so that we may learn from each other. This time we chose to ask individuals living outside of North America about the role and importance of older adults in worship. We are grateful to be able to learn from individuals from Australia, Hong Kong, and Ireland.

How are older adults shown honor and appreciation in your worship services? How much importance is given to their presence, needs, and even preferences?

Woodburn: In our worship services we show honor and appreciation to our older folks by ensuring they realize how much we value them. The church of today would not exist without the work of yesterday’s church, so we strive to include our older members as much as we can. We provide large-print Bibles in every seat, and we endeavor to ensure our sung praise includes older favorites from the past. Space is given for seating for older members in areas of the church complex where they can quietly move to a bathroom if needed, and our church operates a loop system to ensure those with poor hearing can hear the message.

Lee: We have one Sunday each summer called “Respecting the Old Sunday.” We invite those age 60 and up to stand and be recognized during the service, give them a gift (usually a set of bowl and chopsticks), and pray for them. There is a big banquet for the older adults after the worship service. Most of them have been attending our church for thirty or forty years. When I was a little child, I used to think that I would be one of them someday—just like my friend’s grandparents—collecting the bowl-and-chopsticks set every year and dressing up that morning for the banquet.

MacGregor: Worship at our medium-sized congregation in suburban Brisbane, Australia, has a cross-section of ages, backgrounds, and styles. While we veer toward the contemporary worship band approach, we are careful to always include at least a couple of well-known hymns from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries or contemporary hymns (perhaps from the likes of John Bell, Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, or Brian Wren) set to familiar hymn tunes. When Holy Communion is served (by intinction) our elders/servers are careful to take the communion bread and wine to several older folks with mobility issues. We also remember our older folks at those occasional times when there is opportunity for “buzz-group” discussion or impromptu small-group prayer. Many of this age (though far from exclusively so) struggle with this sort of thing. We give them permission, as it were, to simply sit quietly and reflect if they wish. Words of songs and prayers and readings are projected; however, we always have several large-print versions of these for those who are vision-impaired.

Pastor Vivien Lee is a minister and worship planner in a local church in Hong Kong.

Rev. David MacGregor is a minister with the Uniting Church in Australia serving in Tarragindi, Brisbane. A published songwriter, David is married to Dale and passionate about worship (especially with music), building inclusive Christian community, and faith formation with all ages.

Rev. Scott Woodburn is the minister of Edengrove Presbyterian, Ballynahinch, Northern Ireland. He has served there for eleven years and is constantly encouraged and challenged by the doctrines of grace and the Westminster Confession. He is married to Jenny; they have three daughters.

Reformed Worship 132 © June 2019, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.