It isn’t fun or exciting to talk about aging or death. So we don’t. Maybe we think that by ignoring it we can pretend neither reality exists. North American culture has been particularly adept at sanitizing death and coming up with any number of products to disguise the reality of aging. The result is that we aren’t honest with others, ourselves, or God about the challenges and fears that surround either aging or death. It also means that we often don’t honor or celebrate the older adults in our communities.
In this issue one of our focuses is older adults. Sometimes younger folks think faith comes easily and somewhat naturally for those of more advanced years, not realizing that the faith of older adults is tested just as their own—yet they still believe. But how does one endure? What is it that has sustained these living saints? Though they might not answer those questions this way, I would argue that it is their baptism that has provided the sustaining power needed to endure.
Christian churches of all denominations live in a world of constant media banter about generational differences. The progression goes from the Silent Generation to baby boomers to Generation Xers, to millennials (or Generation Y) and now to Generation Z.
The statistics tell it all. The population is getting older. The first of us born in the so-called post-World War II generation of “baby boomers” are now in our early 70s, and even the youngest of this group—of which I am one—are turning 55 in 2019. Small wonder that something like Social Security has become imperiled. When President Franklin D.
Like the author of Psalm 71, many—perhaps all elderly members of your congregation—have worshiped God from their youth. And when they become old, their desire to worship God in the assembly might be stronger than ever.
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?
As I write this article I am listening to a song by Casting Crowns titled “Only Jesus,” and I’m immediately brought back to October 5, 2018, when it was sung at the last funeral service I led. Karen was 33 years old. A five-year survivor of a double lung transplant she needed because of cystic fibrosis, she passed away as a result of the West Nile virus. Her funeral was the second one I officiated in just six weeks for someone under 36. The first was for Curtis, who passed away after a stroke.
In my ministry with seniors, I have discovered that while some may be hesitant to talk about their own deaths, it is an important pastoral focus that can lead to very meaningful discussions.
To facilitate that conversation I created a funeral planning form (“My Funeral Preferences,” see p. 37) which I’ve found to be a helpful tool. Asking an elderly person about favorite Bible passages and songs can lead to rich sharing. Some great questions are:
Funeral planning is a growing pastoral challenge. Even ten years ago, families mostly left planning to the pastor, who worked to personalize each service. Now, families often make requests of the pastor—but many don’t fit well in a Christian funeral. So how might pastors respond wisely to such requests and even proactively avoid them?
Maybe you became acquainted with cremation in connection with the death of someone you knew or loved. You went to visit the family at the funeral home or attended the service at church and wondered where the casket was.
The following service could be held at any time during the church year but would be especially appropriate at the end of the year or around All Saints’ Day. In this congregation particular mention was made of all who had died in the previous two years, but that could be extended or shortened.
As people walk in they are given the opportunity to go to the front of the sanctuary and light a candle in memory of their loved one.
“We are always losing things,” I once heard a wise and seasoned pastor preach. Whether it means the loss of loved ones through death or divorce, jobs through layoffs or dismissals, hope through disappointments and discouragement, or opportunities to make amends, our journey through life is as much about loss as it is gain. Jesus himself assumed as much when he taught that if we want to gain life for eternity, we must be willing to lose along the way.
At Hope Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Denver, Colorado, Pastor Michelle VanDenBerg, Debra Komodore, Lu Lofe, and the worship visuals team explored the idea of using rich liturgical visual images as an expression of thanksgiving.
Funerals are odd events. Normally, if you are going to invite all of your friends and family over, you have weeks or months to prepare—think of the resources called into play for most weddings. But for a funeral, the deceased might have left a few notes about Bible texts they’d like to be read or their favorite songs, but often there is very little put down about colors or flowers or who will attend and who might speak. Add the fact that you usually have to pull something together in days, not weeks or months, all while working through raw emotions.