Messiah News

People of a Certain Age

The 6:00 AM Tuesday morning book group has just finished Bill McKibben's The Flag, the Cross and the Station Wagon and is now in recess until April 11. (The Tuesday after Easter.) Sometime between now and then I'll get a "vote" form out for you about our next book or focus. There are no space limitations on ZOOM so we'd love to have you!

For now just a few thoughts.

If you look at the fine print you see that McKibben subtitled his book, "A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened." In "The Flag" portion of his book he looked at changes in government and politics. In "The Cross" McKibben looked with equal intensity at changes in American Christianity, faith and life. And then, in the "Station Wagon" part he talked about the birth of "suburbia" and all that has meant for the shaping of society and how we use our money. McKibben is 62. In his youth we was seriously engaged in issues of social justice, civil rights, and the environment.  Somewhere along the line he recognized that he, and the rest of us "of a certain age" got overly involved in family, work and personal finances. "What the hell happened?" The book group and I had a fun time talking about all of this. 

Which brings us to us - Messiah Lutheran. Pew Research says that 26% of all U.S. Mainline Protestants are 65 years of age or older, the same or more than any other American Religion tradition they polled. At the same time, only 16% if Mainline Protestants are 18-29, fewer than any other group (except for Jehovah Witnesses at 15%.) When asked about their frequency of attendance at worship services, predictably older people attend more often then younger (although a small percentage of people 65 and over don't seem to know how often they go to church <g>!) Questions about the importance of religion in one's life, frequency or prayer, and participation in prayer, study or religion education also decreases with youth. People at Messiah (and every other church I know) have been noticing the absence of younger families both in worship and programming. Pew research says "You got that right!" 

How old are you? More likely than not if you're reading this you are closer to my age - to Bill McKibben's age - than not. McKibben's question is w\'What is the role of seniors, elders, wisdom holders, and those who have been around the barn more than just a few times, in our world today? And I've had lots of interesting conversations with many of you about this same thing. As *I* think about this for myself . . .

   - I feel I am called to support younger leaders more than lead myself;
   - I feel called to listen more than speak;
   - I can still turn sod. I can do the work. I just need to share it.
   - I try to look through the eyes of others more than I used to;
   - All of this, for me, is part of what it means to be a mentor and a friend;
   - All of this requires that I not fade away but stay engaged!
I also realize that I have 19 times the wealth of younger families (under 35). In 1989 when I was under 35, people
     65 and older only had only 7 times as much money as I did
. I think that implies a degree of responsibility here.

Perhaps if we could be more honest and articulate about some of this younger families would feel more of a place in the church. I don't know, but maybe.

Pastor Dave Brauer-Rieke


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