There's a Trick of the Light I'm Learning to Do

This is a collection of songs I wrote and recorded in January - March, 2020 while on sabbatical from ministry. They each deal with a different aspect or expression of the Gospel. Click on the image above to listen.

Three Hands Clapping

This is my latest recording project (released May 27, 2019). It is a double album of 22 songs, which very roughly track the story of my life... a sort of musical autobiography, so to speak. Click the album image to listen.

Ghost Notes

Ghost Notes
A collections of original songs I wrote in 2015, and recorded with the FreeWay Musical Collective. Click the album image to listen.

inversions

Recorded in 2014, these songs are sort of a chronicle of my journey through a pastoral burn-out last winter. They deal with themes of mental-health, spiritual burn-out and depression, but also with the inexorable presence of God in the midst of darkness. Click the album art to download.

soundings

soundings
click image to download
"soundings" is a collection of songs I recorded in September/October of 2013. Dealing with themes of hope, ache, trust and spiritual loss, the songs on this album express various facets of my journey with God.

bridges

bridges
Click to download.
"Bridges" is a collection of original songs I wrote in the summer of 2011, during a soul-searching trip I took out to Alberta; a sort of long twilight in the dark night of the soul. I share it here in hopes these musical reflections on my own spiritual journey might be an encouragement to others: the sun does rise, blood-red but beautiful.

echoes

echoes
Prayers, poems and songs (2005-2009). Click to download
"echoes" is a collection of songs I wrote during my time studying at Briercrest Seminary (2004-2009). It's called "echoes" partly because these songs are "echoes" of times spent with God from my songwriting past, but also because there are musical "echoes" of hymns, songs or poems sprinkled throughout the album. Listen closely and you'll hear them.

Accidentals

This collection of mostly blues/rock/folk inspired songs was recorded in the spring and summer of 2015. I call it "accidentals" because all of the songs on this project were tunes I have had kicking around in my notebooks for many years but had never found a "home" for on previous albums. You can click the image to download the whole album.

blogs I follow

Readings, 2020

Readings, 2020
Paradise Lost, John Milton

Adorning the Dark, Andrew Peterson

The Soul of Shame, Curt Thompson

Cure for the Common Life, Max Lucado

Halos and Avatars, Craig Detweiller, ed.

Fool's Talk, Os Guinness

Brendan, Frederick Buechner

The Screwtape Letters

Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis

The Pilgrim's Regress, C. S. Lewis

Becoming Whole, Brian Finkert and Kelly Kapic

Real Sex, Lauren Winner

Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis

Voyage to Venus, C. S. Lewis

random reads

Polishing up my Proverbs 16 Crown of Glory (Part I): Outnumbered 4 to 1?

One of the tasks I had to complete when I was finishing my training to be a pastor was something we affectionately called the MRRP (pronounced “merp”), that is: a Ministry Related Research Project.  The idea was to choose an issue that was of concrete relevance to the local church, research it thoroughly, and develop a practical project to address it.  When I wrote my MRRP, I had almost no real experience as a pastor, so I chose a topic that was of concrete relevance to me, in particular, and I just took it for granted that it would be of relevance to the church local, too.

I am still convinced that the topic I chose back in 2008, Christian Faith and Care of the Environment, is of vital importance to the church, and I’ve actually had a number of opportunities to follow up on my research in practical ways since becoming a pastor.  So I’m not saying I regret my decision, by any means.  But in the years since my Seminary days, every once in a while this thought strikes me:  “If you were to do a Ministry Related Research Project today, with 6+ years of real ministry experience behind you, and, hopefully, a much more accurate picture of what issues really are of vital importance to the church, which would you choose?”

Lately when I ask myself that question—what pressing issue especially needs theological clarity and fresh creativity and careful attention to biblical detail, today?—the topic that comes first to mind is this one:   How can and ought the church do seniors ministry in ways that are theologically faithful, biblically informed and pastorally responsive to the unique spiritual issues that accompany aging?

Sorry, that was how you wrote MRRP research questions back then.  Let me try again.  Seniors Ministry: how do we do it faithfully, biblically and well?

Please don’t click “Next Blog” just yet!

I know that ministry to, with and among seniors—the elderly, retirees, the aged and aging—this whole vaguely-defined demographic—is not nearly so “exotic” as almost every other ministry focus: ministry to the marginalized, global missions, consumerism and social justice, sexual identity questions, you name it.  But it is, I am increasingly convinced, something that churches neglect to their determent, their loss and, (dare I say) their failure.

And generally speaking, we do neglect it.  I realize that a few entries in the Amazon search bar hardly counts as hard data (and let me assure you, I was much more vigorous in researching my actual MRRP!) but for curiosity’s sake this afternoon, I went to Amazon.ca and queried: “Youth Ministry.”

12,274 results.

Then I queried “Seniors Ministry.”

2,797 results.

Even if you add the results I got for “Ministry to the Elderly” (325) and “Ministry to the Aged” (178), bringing the total to 3,300 results, still, it sort of makes you go hmmm... to think that Amazon has almost 4 Youth Ministry items in their catalogue, for every 1 item they have on Seniors Ministry.  And just to add more specious data to the mix, when I searched Google for a “Youth Pastor Job” I turned up about 1,280,000 hits; searching for “Pastor to Senior Adults jobs,” got me 325,000 hits.  Again the ratio between the two, roughly speaking, is 4:1.

Does the church really have 4 times more interest in youth ministry than it does in ministering to, with and among the elderly?

I don’t know.  There are all sorts of ways to interpret these results so that they say nothing at all about the church’s interest in, commitment to or readiness for ministry among the aged (e.g. Seniors ministry is not so easily distinguished from ministry generally, like Youth ministry is; Seniors ministry is often not a formalized ministry, the way Youth Ministry is, etc.).  But still, 4:1 feels right on a gut level.  For every pastor I’ve known who felt called specifically to minister to seniors, I’m sure I’ve known 4 who felt called to Youth Ministry.

But again, I have no clue if the 4:1 ratio is even remotely accurate. Even if it’s not, however, the real point I’m trying to make today still stands.  A church that inordinately emphasizes youth without also thinking through the unique discipleship opportunities that come along with aging, the unique challenges to spiritual formation that the elderly face, the unique blessing to the community of Faith that seniors are, and the unique role, biblically, that elders were meant to play in the spiritual formation of youth—that church is missing something vital.

More than simply missing something.  If recent findings by Stats Canada are any indication, a church without a robust “theology of aging” that in turn inspires practical ministry initiatives among the elderly, may find itself missing some crucial Gospel-opportunities in Canada’s New Millennium.  Stats Canada predicts that by 2030, seniors (65 and older) will make up 24% of the Canadian population (up from 15% in 2013).  In the next 50 years, they say, the number of octogenarians (80 years and older) will have tripled, going from 1.4 million today, to around 5 million by 2063.

These numbers are intriguing.  They become pressing when paired with Stats Canada’s prediction that the number of people between 15-64 (i.e. those of working age) will decline, from 69% today, to somewhere around 60% by 2030.  (See http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/canada-s-seniors-population-to-jump-workforce-decline-by-2063-1.2770359 for details.). 

In short: over the next few decades, Canada’s population will see a significant increase in the number of seniors, and, at the same time, a decrease in the number of young adults.  Most analysts wonder about the strain this shift will put on the work-force, the healthcare system, the Canada pension plan, the nuclear family.  Churches, I think, should be wondering about this:  how do we do seniors ministry faithfully, biblically and well? 

I am not planning on rewriting my MRRP anytime soon, but I am planning, over the next few weeks here at terra incognita, to ask this very question in a variety of ways.  My plan is to draw out some key biblical themes that should inform a Christian’s perspective on aging (which is, it turns out, often directly at odds with the secular culture’s perspective on aging), and my goal is to sketch out a theological framework for thinking about and talking about, and especially, ministering to the aged.

It may be that these issues seem especially pressing to me because I turned 41 last spring (my reticence to include that detail in this post is probably a sign that the culture I was socialized in is in more desperate need of a “theology of aging” than I realize).  But whatever the reason, I find that it’s on my mind more than ever these days, the theological meaning of growing old.

If you, like me until recently, have always given 4 times (or more) thought to everything else other than aging, and never really suspected that the Christian Faith actually has some wonderfully counter-cultural things to say about this mysterious activity that all of us, whether we realize it or not, are doing every minute of every day, let me invite you to join me here in asking it:  What does the Bible have to say about what it means to grow old?



0 comments: