March 28, 2017

Gray Church: Another Ecclesiastical Dream

bethlehem-snow

Note from CM: I was going to write a post today expressing another dream I have for the church: that in our youth-focused American culture our churches might find ways to help people in the second-half of life understand what spiritual formation and a Jesus-shaped life mean for them.

I think the traditional churches do a better job of this, but then again, many of them that I have known are composed of a majority of people who are older. Many evangelical churches, on the other hand, build on youth and the seasons of life when people are raising families. That’s why so many of them appear to me as “activity centers.” They are busy, busy, busy trying to compete for the time and energy of kids and their families.

There is also, I’ve observed, a theological/tradition problem in many of these congregations. Seeing themselves as “missions” first, they are trying to reach out and win individuals for Christ. They then move converts into “discipleship” programs that focus on helping people (1) learn content and (2) get busy serving in the church’s programs. There is not a strong tradition of spiritual formation stretching over the course of one’s life. And when the pastors and staff are mostly in the 20-40 range, there is a deficit of experience and learned wisdom to provide that kind of guidance. I’ve met a number of pastors who rarely do funerals, make few visits to the hospital, and have likely never darkened the door of an extended care facility. It’s not on their strategic, visionary radar.

Older adults are pretty much expected to just keep doing the same things over and over again — read their Bibles, pray, attend worship, find places to serve. That’s the program, with very little adjustment for what people actually go through and the spiritual twists and turns different seasons of life throw at them. The “senior saints” may have their own age-related Sunday School classes, activity groups, and so on, but overall they are just expected to roll up their sleeves and join the rest of the congregation in reaching the lost and serving the young.

As I was preparing to write about this subject, I came across the following article on the always excellent Calvin Institute of Christian Worship site. It is from their Resource Library, which contains materials that are meant to be read and distributed to help congregations deal with various issues. So, I will simply present this piece to you today, and hopefully this issue of a “graying” church and my perceived notion that many churches have little clue how to provide spiritual sustenance and guidance to experienced pilgrims will receive some good consideration and discussion today.

God, we spend a lifetime growing, learning of your love and care,
Planting seeds you give for sowing, working for the fruit they’ll bear.
Now we honor faithful servants who, with joy, look back and see
Years of growing in your presence, lives of fruitful ministry.

Thank you, Lord, for ones who teach us what has brought them to this place!
May their faith-filled witness reach us; may we glimpse in them your grace.
Strong in you, their strength uplifts us from our birth until life’s end;
Spirit-filled, they give us gifts, as prophet, mentor, guide and friend.

Christ our Lord, you walk beside us, giving daily work to do;
Years go by and still you guide us as we seek to follow you.
If our sight fails, weak hands tremble, minds forget the things we’ve known,
Lord, we trust that you remember, hold us close, and see us home.

Hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
Copyright © 2001 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
HYMN TO JOY 8.7.8.7 D (“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”)

• • •

Aging Together in Grace
Churches can offer a countercultural message about the gifts of older adults and walking with them through the challenges of aging.

By Joan Huyser-Honig, August 02, 2016
Creative Commons License

The average American’s life expectancy at birth was 70 when The Beatles sang “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?” Back then, people aged 65 or older made up less than 10 percent of the population.

Now more people are getting old, and older people are living longer. “The group of people 85 and older in our country is growing faster than the number we are gaining in infants and young children,” says Susan H. McFadden, a gerontology expert who wrote Aging Together: Dementia, Friendship, and Flourishing Communities with her husband, John T. McFadden. He is a retired United Church of Christ minister and now serves as a memory care chaplain in Appleton, Wisc.

By 2030, more than 20 percent of U.S. residents are projected to be age 65 or older. This trend is magnified in churches. The average age of United Methodist Church members, for example, is around 60, and the UMC has about twice as many members over 65 as the general population, according to William Randolph, the UMC’s director of aging and older adult ministries.

What’s more, Susan McFadden notes, growing old can be hard on the brain. By age 72, one in three persons experiences cognitive decline. At age 85, up to half of all persons will have some form of dementia.

Some churches see these trends and worry about attracting younger people. At the same time, some aging people fear that dementia will render them alone and useless. But both Randolph and the McFaddens see the growing cohort of older adults as a gift to congregations and as ahuge opportunity for churches to counter the isolating stigma of dementia with a promise to journey together with all affected by it.

Congregations can make this countercultural shift by doing three things: exploring universal design, staying connected in worship, and focusing on reciprocal sharing.

Universal design welcomes all
Universal design for churches means making buildings and worship services flexible enough so that each person can receive and respond as God has gifted them.

Like many congregations, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Montrose, Penn., is already adapting its space for people with physical needs. “Eighty percent of people in our church are 60 or older. We don’t have anyone with dementia or stroke damage, but some people use canes or walkers,” says Lynne Graham, who served five years as senior warden of the vestry.

St. Paul’s installed a ramp out front, added handicapped rails in bathrooms, and secured rugs to the floor. Large-print prayer books are available, and the priest brings the communion elements down the altar steps to people who find it hard to leave the pews. Even those who can’t get to the church building are included.

“We recently started livestreaming our worship services through our church website, and services are archived on YouTube,” Graham says. “Usage statistics show that a fairly large group does look at our services. Some are members who can’t get out to church easily or who winter in Florida. We make sure they have the equipment and skill to access our online worship services.”

Universal design in worship services may require more creativity than putting in a hearing loop system or cutting out pew sections so people in wheelchairs can sit with their families.

The late Eileen Shamy, a Methodist pastor, pioneered ministry to those with dementia in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. She noticed that pastors who found ways to lead worship for severely memory-impaired people usually come from sacrament-centered traditions. They value “silence, solitude, order, ‘being,’ symbol, ritual, and the priestly tasks,” she wrote in A Guide to the Spiritual Dimension of Care for People with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia.

She said adapting worship is more difficult for traditions “whose strength (and weakness) may be attributed to the primacy of the word—the read word of Scripture, the preached word of the sermon, the reasoning word in discussion and careful consensus making.”

Worship memories that remain and enliven those with dementia usually flow from:

  • Things congregations voice together in worship: Singing or reciting the Gloria Patri, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, or the Lord’s Supper memorial acclamation (Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again)
  • Ways worshipers move their bodies: Kneeling, passing the peace, receiving communion, making the sign of the cross, moving to music, bringing offerings forward to the altar or platform, or minister’s and congregation’s gestures during the benediction
  • Sensory cues: Pre-service music, the sound of water pouring into a baptismal font, incense, candles, processionals with the cross and Bible, vestments, communion sets, or banners

Stay connected in worship
Like many congregations, St. Paul’s Episcopal also wanted to connect with and bring younger people into worship. “A few years ago,” Graham says, “we tried doing afterschool programming for youth. We started with five kids and ended with one. We realized that the Baptist church in our small town is already taking care of local youth. I suggested we target older adults.” Members began to see their older average age as a gift, not a liability, for ministry.

Intentionally including older adults in ministry helps congregations keep the promises made at baptism: To do all in their power to love, support and encourage the person being adopted into God’s family—regardless of age.

Many churches already mark life and faith formation milestones such as birth, baptism, confirmation and marriage. Why not build on this in worship by using songs, sermons, testimonies and prayers to highlight wisdom, growth and service opportunities in life’s second half? As Presbyterian pastor Carolyn Gillette puts it in her hymn “God, We Spend a Lifetime Growing”: “Strong in you, their strength uplifts us from our birth until life’s end; Spirit-filled, they give us gifts, as prophet, mentor, guide and friend.”

Church of the Resurrection United Methodist Church in Leawood, Kan.,designed CrossRoads Ministry “to help those 50+ navigate the second half of their lives with significance and joy.” The ministry offers Sunday morning groups, Bible study, pre-retirement workshops and mission opportunities.

Growing life expectancy has made the “older adults” category multigenerational. These age groups are variously described as “boomers, builders and elders” or “young old, middle old and oldest old.” As people move through these stages, worshiping together can strengthen them by modeling how to let go, deal with grief, and grow spiritually. Congregational lament, openly talking about dementia, praying for care partners, and creating rituals to mark transitioning from one’s own home to a care facility can all help map the journey worshipers take on their way home to live with God.

Christians willing to visit continuing-care campuses find tremendous ministry opportunities.

Graham, for example, recently joined two friends who’ve been offering weekly Episcopal morning prayer at two places, drawing up to 20 people at one site.

Meanwhile, at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Calif., Stephen Martin’s music and worship students designed worship with seniors in mind. They received song requests before leading worship in private homes. At a residence for retired religious and charitable professionals, students presented historical background on hymns that residents and students sang together. Martin says they’ve seen how carefully chosen songs can “wake up the mind.”

And Nancy Gordon, director of the California Lutheran Homes Center for Spirituality and Aging, adapted a children’s worship program to create Sensing the Sacred, a creative liturgy for people with memory loss.

Reciprocal sharing
People often say of a person with a dementia, “He’s just an empty shell now. It’s too sad to visit, because he doesn’t remember me anyway.” This view flows from the idea that someone’s identity is based on what they remember.

But, John T. McFadden says in his pamphlet “Aging, Dementia, and the Faith Community: Continuing the Journey of Friendship”, “Christians have a different story to tell about what gives our lives worth, value and meaning. Personhood is not defined solely by our corporal bodies or our cognitive abilities, but rather by our relationships with others. And we are creatures created in the divine image not because we physically or intellectually resemble the Almighty One, but because God remains in faithful relationship with us in all circumstances and conditions.

“If we should forget God,” McFadden continues, “God will not forget us. And if we forget God, our community of faith can remember us to God and bring God’s presence into our lives through means that do not require us to grasp that presence cognitively.”

McFadden suggests weaving webs of relationships that “soften categories that differentiate and divide.” Congregations can do this by valuing intergenerational partnerships and recognizing that people with memory loss still want to—and can—serve others.

Raymond Village Community Church (UCC) in Raymond, Maine, designed a “Wisdom of Our Elders” worship service at an assisted living residence thatsoftened the line between “ministering” and “being ministered to.”

“We had a familiar order of worship,” Pastor Nancy Foran says, “but in place of a homily we broke into small groups to gather wisdom from residents. They appreciated being asked meaningful questions about what they’re most thankful for and how they got through times of darkness.

“I gathered their responses into a final corporate prayer. Then we all sang ‘Amazing Grace,’ I gave the benediction, and our church’s Very Occasional Men’s Choir sang ‘Bless This House,’ which is a favorite of a church member who lives there,” Foran says.

Other churches have found creative ways for multiple generations to share knowledge and wisdom with each other. At Grace United Methodist Church in Frisco, Texas, people from ages 6 to 60 play in the Ukulele Choir. First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore, Texas, used teams of three young teens and a deacon to make monthly visits to older adults and nursing homes. Some churches offer monthly intergenerational church school or an intergenerational vacation Bible school. Others might ask their youth groups to conduct accessibility surveys of their church property or offer classes in using smartphones or tablets.

Older adults with limited mobility still have gifts to share. They appreciate not only being prayed for but also being asked to pray regularly for specific reasons. “A lady in her 90s is our ‘sunshine person,’” Graham says. “She sends out all the birthday and sympathy cards for St. Paul’s.” Many churches and retirement communities gather plastic bags to weave into waterproof mats for homeless people. Those with less ability can separate and flatten bags for others to weave.

People in early stages of dementia are often still able to read stories to children or read the Scripture lessons during worship. John McFadden says these opportunities for full engagement in service and leading worship are more important than whether the person remembers an hour later what he or she read.

“Worship, fellowship, Bible study and prayer groups, mission and service: members with dementia can share in, and contribute to, many dimensions of church life,” McFadden says. “As they do, they will offer profound gifts to those of us not (yet) on the road to cognitive loss, not the least of which is to teach us to reject the stigmatization of dementia and to overcome our own fear of it.”

• • •

Links

LEARN MORE

Read Aging Together: Dementia, Friendship, and Flourishing Communities by Susan H. McFadden and John T. McFadden. View their “Age On” (81 minutes) presentation. Download “Aging, Dementia, and the Faith Community: Continuing the Journey of Friendship.”

Glean pastoral care and worship ideas from A Guide to the Spiritual Dimension of Care for People with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia: More than Body, Brain and Breath by Eileen Shamy. Read Dorothy Linthicum’s insights on faith formation in older adults (pp. 45-58).

Network with older adults who are making a difference: Community of Hope International,CrossRoads Ministry and older adult ministries in Episcopal and United Methodistchurches.

Fill out this profile and survey from Presbyterian Older Adult Ministries Network to assess age groups and existing resources in your church and community. Consider connecting with or creating programs such as memory cafe´s, a film and discussion group on spirituality and aging  or Opening Doors to Memory and Imagination: Creating a Museum Program for People with Memory Loss, compiled by Jane Tygesson.

Gather older Christians’ wisdom in a letterwriting project like Ozark Church of Christ did 20 years ago in Nixa, Mo.

Start a group to crochet or weave plastic bags into waterproof mats for homeless people(scroll down to CareMATS section under “Blanketed With Prayer”).

START A DISCUSSION

Feel free to print and distribute these stories at your staff, board, worship or social justice team meeting. These questions will help people start talking about aging in your church and community:

  • What universal design changes might you make in your building and worship service so that older people can keep participating? Which of these changes might also make your church more hospitable for children, youth, people with disabilities or people learning your language?
  • How might you join with another congregation to “adopt” residents and staff at a senior care facility?
  • In what ways does your congregation seek, tap and recognize older adults’ gifts of talents, time or wisdom?  In what ways or at what life stages do older adults seem invisible or detached from your life together?

Comments

  1. Hi CM,
    Thanks so much for posting this. With the many news articles talking about the death of the “mainline denominations”, I thought the sorts of things you talk about in this post were dying with them. I’m older, and I can feel my mind slowly darkening, not least because of a terrible incident in the military long ago. I wasn’t aware of the effects of that until I started getting treatment for them. Perhaps I can find one of the churches you describe; quieter, with none of the banging, clanging and general tumult most younger evangelical seem to generate. Now the hard part: blasting myself out of my self-imposed isolation. Very difficult. Thanks again!

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > death of the “mainline denominations”

      Which seems to be happening with the same speed as the “collapse” of the Evangelicals…. there is still time on the demographic time-line for those moribund mainlines to grasp a burst of vitality. I sat next to such a gray haired at the barbershop last weekend; he and his wife had just moved into “the city”, eager to launch into a new third phase of life, whatever that might be. There are lots of him out there.

      > blasting myself out of my self-imposed isolation

      Sending e-ncouragement! 🙂

  2. seneca griggs says:

    C.M., it seems to me [ but I could be wrong ] that most of the active commenters on this site are more than middle aged.

    If it’s true, it must be indicative of some interesting things but I’m not sure what they are or what they would be. Possibly this blog is very representative of mainline congregations – age wise.

    • Out of curiosity, where do you get your name from? I’m aware of Seneca the Younger, I’m a growing fan of the Stoics mostly through the influence of Tim Ferris, but where does the Griggs come from?

    • Seneca, my sense is that commenters, or at least lurkers, in the 30-50 range are roughly balanced with those in the 50-70 range, with a few outliers in both directions including me, and possibly you, probably a bell curve peaking at fifty, which I consider the beginning of middle age. If it were not for those under fifty, I likely wouldn’t be here, tho I guess I can say the same for those over fifty, who are noticeably more hip than the general population. It’s a good mix, the best one I know.

  3. When I was young, old people got “senile”, and it was often a source of mild amusement, even for old people. Today old people get demented. What a horrible word. It seems to me that if this whole discussion is based on the assumption that we are all going to go crazy as we age, we’re losing the battle before it starts. Oh, you say, dementia is a medical term and it just means “mentally impaired”. Yeah, right, impaired imshnaired, demented is demented. If we can’t come up with a better word than dementia, let’s go back to senile, where at least we could face this serious daunt with a chuckle.

    The posting in various places speaks of “the second half of life”, and from context you can tell this means life after fifty, which is like life before fifty except you take more and more prescription drugs. There is no question but that a major sea change happens to people today around that age, men and women both, but this is not at all what Richard Rohr means when he speaks of the second half of life. He speaks of this second half of life as the intended spiritual blossoming of the human spirit after spending the first half getting the material part in order. This concept is completely off the radar of today’s discussion, and as Richard frequently points out, this spiritual blossoming is the whole point to being born on planet Earth. You are meant to make a real difference in the Universe, and older people are much better positioned to do this if it ever occurred to them. I don’t think he is talking about singing Amazing Grace in the “care facility” because that is the only thing you can remember, tho that would be better than waiting to go to heaven while zombied out on television.

    This problem is only going to get worse as modern medical miracles sentence us to ever increasing life support systems. As I read the proposed solutions, I can say well enough for those who have no concept of what the second half of life is meant to be, but I don’t want to be around these people. With few exceptions they are stultifying because no one has ever mentioned that they are in blossom time or how you blossom, and the whole point of a flower is to blossom at its appointed time. My main question would be why does no one mention this ahead of time so you could prepare all along the way? When I say no one mentions it, Richard Rohr would be an obvious exception, but then the question becomes, why do so few pay any attention to him.

    Yesterday, clearing six inches of wet slushy snow off my driveway in the rain so it wouldn’t freeze solid last night was about all my snow blower and I could handle. It isn’t going to get any easier and at some point I’m probably not going to be able to do it. I live alone and I think about these things. One thing I think is that if my prospect was to end up in a nursing home in a wheelchair with a bunch of clueless “demented” old people, I’d rather take my chances living under a bridge somewhere.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Don’t forget those in the second half completely ignored by those in the first half, staring at the glowing screen in their hand 24/7/365, stroking and caressing Their Precioussssssssssss.

      Because if you’re not on Social Media 24/7/365, YOU DO NOT EXIST.
      “But EVERYBODY’S ON FACEBOOK!”
      “But EVERYBODY’S ON TWITTER!”
      “JUST GO TO MY MYSPACE!”
      “Two Plus Two? What’s the App for that?”

    • Rohr was on my mind as I was thinking about this, and I do not mean to neglect what he says, which should be front and center in this discussion.

      However, when I came across this article, I thought we’d focus on issues from the church perspective. A lot of work needs to be done just recognizing that we are ignoring those in life’s second half.

    • Dana Ames says:

      “As I read the proposed solutions, I can say well enough for those who have no concept of what the second half of life is meant to be, but I don’t want to be around these people.”

      >Neither do I, and I’m only nearly 61 🙂 I don’t want be the object of programs to minister to me; I want people to care about me.

      “My main question would be why does no one mention this ahead of time so you could prepare all along the way? When I say no one mentions it, Richard Rohr would be an obvious exception, but then the question becomes, why do so few pay any attention to him.”

      >Oh, Richard Rohr? You mean that CATHOLIC guy? /sarcasm off. But really, being Catholic is the main reason most Christians in non-sacramental churches don’t pay attention to him, and secondarily that he’s supposedly “new age.” And no one else mentions these things ahead of time because *****there is no theology to support them.***** All there is (in my experience) is: continue to do the same stuff: support programs and work that get people “saved” and bring them into the organization, and then “disciple” them, ’cause, you know, The Bible. And if you’re not physically or mentally up to all of that, then you’re not worth much – unless you have labored long and hard in some foreign mission field. (Sorry, this brings back memories of the worst episodes of my experience.)

      Broken Record Alert: This is yet another reason why I am so grateful to have found the Orthodox Church. The whole of life is preparation for being able to yield my spirit into God’s hands, and the more difficult times near the end of life are the things that can refine us more toward that telos, if we will let them. The holiness is precisely in the struggle, even if we don’t sense it while we’re going through the hard things. The theology supports people who struggle being held in esteem, and it supports people caring out of love – God’s own love acting in and through us, not because there has to be a program to keep the numbers up. People who suffer from senility – or other cognitive developmental problems – are still regarded as human beings made in the image of God. No, not all Orthodox are aware of the great treasure of the theology that supports that kind of caring. But God meets everyone where they are – and that’s part of its theology, too.

      Dana

      • ” The whole of life is preparation for being able to yield my spirit into God’s hands, and the more difficult times near the end of life are the things that can refine us more toward that telos, if we will let them.”
        Beautiful.

        I hear so much discussion in my own church about how to get the young people to come, and stay, and how do we grow and how do we make ourselves relevant.
        We plant seeds in the ground in the spring, but we can’t make them grow; they have to be provided with adequate water and warmth, but beyond that, it’s up to letting the seeds do what seeds are designed to do. I sense that too often, in the church, we want to plop a fake flower on top of the newly planted seed of faith to give us all a sense that things are growing when they aren’t. If enough people say it’s lovely, and that it’s relevant to them, then that makes it so. But it’s still a fake flower.

        God meets us where we are and we have to let Him. And often, he doesn’t look anything like we expect or want.

      • William H. Martin Jr says:

        I wanted to ask Dana as I really don’t know Orthodox. I have a Greek friend and his mother is really into the tradition.. Has the Icons he has told me about which I don’t understand but do more from being here. Anyways, he said if you are walking down the street and someone is wearing the robe and dress and forgive me because I cannot remember if he used Priest or Father is passing you, you have to stop and bend over and kiss his ring. He seemed to have a real problem with this. Of course the conversation didn’t go into length but he said he grew up very close to a Church and I’m not even sure if that is the correct word. I was wondering about this for some time and not growing up where this wouldn’t seem out of place it seems out of place for me. I guess I’m not sure about things like that.

        What just came to my mind was the washing of Jesus’s feet and he said to the host you did not. Is it something along that line of thinking and greeting. That just pop into my mind as soon as I wrote the above. Am I off base here or maybe you can help me understand better?

        • Stbendict says:

          William, All I can tell your u is the Lord that is good . May he bless you with eyes that see . And a Love that knows no bounds

        • William,
          first of all, I want to second what Stbenedict said.

          Orthodox priests don’t wear rings. However, the convention is probably something that people here will like even less… and that is to cross oneself, bow, and kiss the priest’s right hand. This is not because the priest is special in himself, and every good priest will know that in his bones and fight any temptation to think so. Orthodox Christians do this out of respect for what the priest has been set aside to do, part of which is that his hands hold the very body of Christ, and distribute it to us in worship. (We also understand the Body of Christ to be the Christians with whom we are worshiping. It’s a both/and sort of thing.)

          I’m not quite sure of the connection you’re making to the host not washing Jesus’ feet, forgive me.

          Dana

          • William H. Martin Jr says:

            Yes now I do remember he did say hand. It has been a while but it stuck in my head about kissing the hand. How I got ring in there I don’t know. Probably my own projection. As far as the host it had to with greeting and showing respect which he had failed to do. It was what popped in my head and I don’t know why. The women washed his feet with tears and wiped them with her hair. The host asked if He knew who she was. I’m being a little vague on purpose. Again I don’t know why.

            Thanks though I do understand better. I’ve been praying with this fellows mom for awhile now. She doesn’t know that though her being in Greece and we have never met yet. We want the same thing though.

          • Can’t sleep. Things on my mind. I can actually see the hand kissing thing as a great blessing and of importance to keep one grounded as a reminder of who we are. The woman did this and the host could have. So came the words leave her alone.

          • Dana,
            In some Western churches there is a custom of priests/pastors ritually washing the feet of parishoners on Maundy Thursday, to reenact Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet on the evening before his passion, as described in the Gospel of John. Is there anything similar in Eastern Orthodoxy?

            • Dana Ames says:

              Robert,

              not to my knowledge. We’re **supposed to** give the kind of care of which that is symbolic to people all the time. We do often fail at that. We don’t ritualize it. (We also don’t have any kind of adoration of the consecrated Eucharist. Some is reserved for the sick; that’s all.)

              Holy Thursday in the Orthodox Church is about the establishment of the Eucharist and the anticipation of the Lord going to the cross on Holy Friday. Beginning on Holy Thursday evening, liturgical time gets “pushed ahead” – the evening services become the Matins for the following day, and Vespers for the following day is prayed in the morning rather than the evening. If one attends all the services, it makes sense and is not as confusing as it sounds. As part of Holy Friday Matins on HT evening, all of the passion accounts of the Gospels are chanted, arranged roughly in the order the events happened. Since it’s a Gospel reading, we’re supposed to stand… gets quite long :} But it sends you home in the appropriate frame of mind and heart.

              D.

  4. I think it would be pretty cool if we had an Internet Monk retreat sometime. Nothing super formal, maybe even just a gathering at a pub near that Abbey CM likes going to.

  5. Ronald Avra says:

    The articles and comments from the last two days have given me a bit of mental overload. It is going to take a bit of work for me to digest it all.

  6. William H. Martin Jr says:

    When I first read this this morning I got the feel of watching churches die and how do we do this and help those who made them as they die. Church to me has never been four walls or a building. I’ve called it that because what else do you call that building. Here in the city the big magnificent stone buildings are up for sale. Some half a city block. Someone once said to me as we came from the basement of one look at the expense they had on that one when the money could of blessed so many. I said it did bless so many. From the quarry owner right down to the man cleaning up good and not so good alike. Think about it. The city was alive in this age of the last century. We were doing cook outs and handing out things and yes Bibles were some of it and asking if we could pray with people about anything on their minds.

    My son took Jesus into his life while hunting with me. He won’t go to the church buildings……yet. I hope he does someday and it fits him. Maybe now with little Dylan his first and my fourth grandson alive after the first died in my hands with lungs that couldn’t make it. I know it is changing him. Jesus is alive and well in him as I see it all the time. He has dreams that come true but won’t comment on them till he is sure he knows what is meant by them. Sometimes I have to ask in detail what he saw and even sometimes I can interpret them. When his wife and high school sweet heart got her heart broken because her brother disappeared he dreamed about the man we worked for that day and he said I saw him before only there was no way as we were only there one day and he said I saw the living room and everything and I saw Rena his wife crying and very sad. Gifts are what they are.

    The point is we are the Church and it is people not walls and a roof. Funny Gray Church is rather dismal and rather prophetic in nature because at this point it does seem to be this way here. Gray neither light or dark. Neither quite dead or fully alive as Charles said I want know part of that as he spoke about people. I don’t either and would rather just die. Got get that will done so no one can bring me back. Paul said I know it would be better for me to go but if I must stay than let it be for you. I’m guessing he meant for the church which was the people he had met. It’s the you part that is so hard here. Many people I meet are not so nice and some of them go to church every week and some of them are the hardest I’ve ever met. Love of Christ have mercy on me and let me see as you. Complete what you have started. May it be shared.

    Here in this city a man started CORE City of Refuge Evangelism. He gives out once a week things that are non food items like laundry detergent and bleach and tooth paste and diapers and anything that might help with those that struggle to make ends meet. Not for gain to membership to churches and such but because God broke his heart to. They make a meal like a big pot sort of thing and feed anyone who comes. There is no hidden agenda but to help. No grants and such because of restrictions as he has none. Come and be, let us bless you if we can. He says many times I have no idea where it is going to come from but it does some how.
    He tells of times the man dishing says there is only enough for two more yet twenty stand in line. He says somehow they all got fed and there was still enough for two more. He says the man dishing and I have no idea how it happened it just did. How does this change things I don’t know and neither does he. Not our department I guess.

    These things go on everywhere. I could tell you about Life’s Beacon Foundation in York who help people get out of prison and street people and addicts. No grant money. Bob always says I just try and love like Christ and make as much room as I can for Him to help. Bob doesn’t push Christ with agendas as much as he tries to have Him in his heart.

    My youngest son who asked Jesus into his heart while hunting can read people like a book. He knows when he is being sold something and you won’t get him to buy. Bob never sold him anything and we have worked for free for him plenty. My son likes Bob because he is real and it is easy to tell it. Isn’t that what we want. After all if Christ isn’t real what are we doing? Scott at CORE and Bob at LBF are called to do what they do. I was meant to work with my hands in extreme situations at times and someone has to sit in the stands for the players on the field don’t they and pay an admission price if it’s worth it. Sometimes I get to throw the ball around a little. Maybe I’ll get to eat tonight. Oh heck maybe I’ll even get paid this week. Boy I am pushing things.

    • William H. Martin Jr says:

      Maybe the length got it into moderation. Or maybe God is trying to tell me moderation. Or maybe the plugs I put in for two very good people who hate to solicit for donations. Please don’t take it that way anyone as they wouldn’t like it so much and there will be a way anyways.