10 July 2023 By James Woodward
If I have time on a Sunday morning it is (usually) good to catch up with the religious news of the week with the Sunday Programme. This was followed by a superb act of morning worship that marked the music of William Byrd on the 400th anniversary of his death. Just as I moved towards the off switch ‘A Point of View’ started and I was captivated listening to Michael Morpurgo reflecting on age as he approaches his 80th birthday.
‘The truth is,’ Michael said, ‘that older people are increasing in numbers and will very likely continue to do so. This is clear. But the place – or the role – of older people in society is far from clear.’
He told us listeners that in a ‘civilised society’ we have to find better ways of bridging the gap in understanding between young and old. This humane and insightful reflection is on BBC Sounds and available for a year.
It is, as some of you will know, an area of thinking and practice that is very close to my heart – something that has been a lifelong interest and passion.
I listened to (some of) the General Synod dialogue and debate with an ear to the use of the word ageing. It mostly is used as a negative descriptor. What we fear we other in so many ways. An ageing congregation is not spoken of with delight and love but with a deep fear that somehow they are symbolic of our decline.
It will not do to talk like this about others and their age. We need to befriend the older stranger in us – celebrate all that is given and shared through the gifts of each generation. Valuing Age. Celebrating Age. Knowing how we need each others distinctive charism and gifts is part of nurturing community and wisdom.
The Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) is a Christian charity whose vision is to inspire people of all ages to grow in faith and understanding of the Bible and to see more people equipped to exercise their gifts in leadership and ministry.
BRF is the home of Anna Chaplaincy, Living Faith, Messy Church and Parenting for Faith. The Fellowship works to envision, empower and equip individual Christians and church congregations to live out the call to discipleship and mission. This is enabled through digital and paper resources, training and events and networking.
At Sarum College we are glad to be working in partnership with BRF and Anna Chaplaincy. This year Anna Chaplains will come to Sarum for their retreat. Take a look at their resources both for older people and other ages. I was glad to connect with Methodist Homes (MHA) and BRF colleagues at the recent Methodist Conference in Birmingham and especially the amazing Jane Butcher who is the Church Advocate Lead/Coordinator, Anna Chaplaincy for Older People. She reminded me of these links and resources. Do take a look!
So a gentle Sabbath plea – as we all age let us take care to value and celebrate age at every stage – we belong together across the generations.
The Revd Canon Professor James Woodward is Principal of Sarum College.
He is leading the following study days at Sarum:
Exploring Spiritual Pain (13 September 2023)
Reflective Journalling (5 October 2023)
And will contribute to an evening on theology: Is Theology Still Relevant Today? (23 November 2023)