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A series of essays towards General Convention in 2003

ECUSA's Response to the Aging

In 2000 General Convention mandated that "Executive Council in consultation with the Congregational Ministries Cluster [CMC] and the Board of the Episcopal Society for Ministry on Aging, Inc. [ESMA], consider what response the national church should make financially and programmatically to the enormous increase expected in the aging population in the Church." (D012)

CMC and the ESMA Board met in October of 2001 and produced a report to Council -- published in full below. Meeting in New Hampshire, June 10-14, 2002, Executive Council referred the report to Council's committee on Congregations in Ministry (CIM). CIM decided simply to 'receive' the report without bringing it to the full Council for action.

Council will revisit the matter at our meeting in October. I would appreciate advice by private email from all who have expertise and interests in this area. We will need much wisdom to determine "what response the national church should make financially and programmatically to the enormous increase expected in the aging population in the Church." -- Louie Crew

from the


The purpose of this report is to address the results of the Consultation called for in the following Resolution from the 73rd General Convention. 

Resolution, #D012, 73rd General Convention

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the Executive Council in consultation with the Congregational Ministries Cluster and the Board of the Episcopal Society for Ministry on Aging, Inc., consider what response the national church should make financially and programmatically to the enormous increase expected in the aging population in the Church;  and be it further Resolved, That this consultation be held by December 31, 2001, and the results of the consultation be communicated to the 74th General Convention in 2003.

The Consultation called for in this resolution took place on October 26, 27, and 28, 2001, in Oviedo, Florida.  Twenty-eight persons from a number of dioceses, organizations, and denominations, attended.  Included in the group was a representative of the Congregational Ministries Cluster, two members of the Executive Council,  and members of the Board of the Episcopal Society for Ministry to Aging.  A list of the persons and their affiliations is included with the supporting documents attached to this report.


       The population of the United States has been aging for the past Century.  Those 65 and older were only 4.1% of  the population in 1900, but had tripled by 2000 to 12.8%.  But they will nearly double in only the next thirty years to 20.1% in 2030 as the Baby Boomers reach the age of 65.  At the same time the number of  those over 85 is increasing at a far greater rate than in the past.
     No longer are these older adults mainly frail or disabled, as our Prayer Book suggests (e.g. "For the aged and infirm, for the widowed and orphans, and for the sick and suffering    . . . . ," page 384).   Thanks to advances in medical care and nutrition, many are living active and productive lives into their eighties and nineties. Thus some 25 years, sometimes called "The Third Age," has been added to the normal span of life.  Structures of family life and work patterns are also changing.  Older adults are increasingly in second and even third marriages and thus involved in widely extended families.  Workers may "retire" two or three times and  may be as involved in "work" after retirement as before.
          Parishes in the Episcopal Church tend to have many ways of carrying out the Baptismal commitment "to support  these persons in their life in Christ" by activities that focus on children,  youth, and young families.  However, little thought or attention is given to the spiritual, or other needs, of older adults who make up 60% of most of our congregations and provide most of the financial support.  We need to continue to support people as they continue their spiritual journeys through adulthood to the end of life.
  As Richard Kew1 has noted, the age wave "provides a setting within which older Christians can be given a new life and oriented to new forms of Christian service.  As we look at these realities our only limits will be the scope of our creativity and imagination."  Challenges and opportunities for the church today and in the future abound.  Now is the time to begin planning so that the church will be able to cope creatively and responsibly with the uncharted territories as they emerge.


  Based on the Consultation it is suggested that the Executive Council consider the following resolution at the meeting on June 15.  The resolution could become a part of the Executive Council's report to the 74th General Convention in 2003.

,  That the 74th General Convention establish an Office of Ministry with the Aging charged with the responsibility of serving and networking the Episcopal Church's ministries with the aging in all dioceses, and be it further

        RESOLVED,  That the appointment of a Director of this Office be authorized with charge that the Director have the responsibility and authority to enable ministries with older adults and by older adults at all levels of the church, and be it further
      RESOLVED,  That a budget of $300,000 be authorized for an initial 3 year period for this office.


Program Parameters:

      a.   elder corps
      b.   significant and appropriate ministry (clergy and lay)
            1)   prayer warriors
            2)   telephone reassurance
            3)   mentoring
            4)   proxy grandparents
            5)   marriage mentors
      c.   life long learning
      d.   continuing education for deacons & priests
      e.   intergenerational activities
      f.    paid work

Spirituality & evangelism
      a.   new prayers, rituals
      b.   spiritual direction
      c.   bible study/book study
      d.   preparing for good death
      e.   meeting Jesus for the 1st/2nd time

      a.   institutional
      b.   homebound
      c.   family planning for aging (womb to tomb care)
      d.   preparation for life's transitions
      e.   multigenerational challenges
      f.    substance abuse, exploitation, mental health
      g.   directory of Episcopal facilities for  older adults

Financial Support

   The estimate of $300,000 is just that.  The salaried person will be a major part of that amount.  It is anticipated that this person will be charged with program responsibilities, with the goal of seeking outside funding sources for short term and long term funding.

        Summary of Proceedings 
List of Participants 
   Design Team List and Meeting Dates     
        History of Episcopal Society for Ministry on Aging 

End of Report

The Old Grandfather and His Grandson

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Once upon a time there was a very, very old man. His eyes had grown dim, his ears deaf, and his knees shook. When he sat at the table, he could scarcely hold a spoon. He spilled soup on the tablecloth, and, beside that, some of his soup would run back out of his mouth.

His son and his son's wife were disgusted with this, so finally they made the old grandfather sit in the corner behind the stove, where they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and not enough at that. He sat there looking sadly at the table, and his eyes grew moist. One day his shaking hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the ground and broke. The young woman scolded, but he said not a word. He only sobbed. Then for a few hellers they bought him a wooden bowl and made him eat from it.

Once when they were all sitting there, the little grandson of four years pushed some pieces of wood together on the floor.

"What are you making?" asked his father.

"Oh, I'm making a little trough for you and mother to eat from when I'm big."

The man and the woman looked at one another and then began to cry. They immediately brought the old grandfather to the table, and always let him eat there from then on. And if he spilled a little, they did not say a thing.

Source: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Der alte Großvater und der Enkel, Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales -- Grimms' Fairy Tales), final edition (Berlin, 1857), no. 78.

You are welcome to submit your essays for consideration for this series. Send them to Identify yourself by name, snail address, parish, and other connections to the Episcopal Church. Please encourage others to do the same.


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