Appreciating resiliency

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wyllieThe Revd Fran Ruthven, who served as a special category minister with responsibility for older people ministry, considers the vital capacity to bounce back from adversity.

It is no secret that older people make up the majority membership of our churches in the URC. And while I understand the concerns raised about the lack of younger people in the church, that concern need not dampen our appreciation for all the experience, wisdom and creativity that is present in our older membership.

In recent years there has been much interest in resiliency: the ability of a person to rebound even stronger from adverse events, circumstances or conditions. Resiliency is often seen as contributing to a longer, healthier, improved quality of life.

Stories of resiliency abound in our churches.

One of the privileges of being a pastor has been the opportunity to listen and learn from the stories of those older parishioners who have lived through and been transformed by some of the most challenging experiences of life.

Closely related to resiliency is a growing and deepening spirituality. Older people in our congregations, and often those living with physical and cognitive limitations, can be wells of spiritual wisdom and presence who understand that "being" is just as important, and sometimes more important than "doing". Their witness is both a resource and a challenge to those of us caught up in our super cognitive, hyper active culture.

Out of resiliency and a deepening spirituality can also come a creative freedom in our later years expressed in a variety of ways, including an openness to new ways of living and living out our faith.

I found this to be especially true in my ministry to those affected by dementia whose lives, though limited, displayed courage, humour, joy and love; the ultimate creative expression.

Resiliency, spirituality, creativity, are just some of the gifts offered by many older people in our churches. Precious gifts, much needed, much appreciated.

Image © Intergen (Bringing older and younger people together), with kind permission of


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