By Debbie Eisenbise, director of Intergenerational Ministries
There should be an adage, “to live is to age.” We don’t often consider that God’s plan for humanity, for all of creation, includes aging. As time passes, we experience change and loss. We grow out of certain pastimes and activities. We slow down a bit, priorities shift, our bodies change, and new roles and relationships emerge in our families, at work, and at church.
With our children grown up and our years of child-bearing and rearing behind us, we enter into the second half of life and explore questions about meaning, purpose, and legacy. We need time and space, not only on our own but with others, to reflect, converse, share, laugh, sing, and pray. Every other year for the past 25 years, our denomination has provided a week to do just this for those age 50 and older.
The first National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) took place in 1992 in North Carolina at the Lake Junaluska Conference Center (a spot that was familiar to those who had attended the 1958 National Youth Conference). Called “Say ‘Yes’ to Years,” the gathering was to “celebrate relationships, stimulate personal growth, and affirm [older adults’] place in church and society.” By 1996, participation reached 1,000, and in 2015, 19 participants had attended all of the conferences ever held.
The reason and energy for establishing this conference came from the 1985 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference Statement on Aging that affirms: “All life is a gift from God. Aging, the living out of that gift, is a life-long experience. Aging is an interrelated process involving social, spiritual, psychological and biological dimensions. The Church of the Brethren … envisions the church as a nurturing, supportive community which regards older persons as growing, learning, and contributing members of family, church, and society.”
Throughout the last quarter-century, the conference has evolved into an intergenerational event. Those older than 50 years old now represent four distinct generations: Generation X (those in their 50s and born after 1964), the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946-1964), the Silent generation (born 1927-1945), and the Greatest generation (born prior to 1927). Regardless of which generation a person is part of, this year’s conference theme, “Generations,” explores God’s call to us: “One generation shall laud God’s works to another and shall declare God’s mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4).
All who are 50+ are invited to join in this “Spirit-filled gathering of adults who love learning and discerning together, exploring God’s call for their lives and living out that call by sharing their energy, insight, and legacy with their families, communities, and the world.” We hope you will join us to celebrate God’s gift of life.
Learn more about the upcoming National Older Adult Conference, “Inspiration 2017” at www.brethren.org/NOAC or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cobnoac . Ask questions by calling 1-800-323-8039 x. 361 or e-mailing Inspiration2017@brethren.org.