An elderly women's hands are laid in her lap. She is wearing a checked gingham dress and a green cardigan. Her hands are wrinkled, and gnarly from age.

In everything give thanks – for Ministry with the Ageing

When the Committee for Ministry with the Ageing was being developed, it was initially to be called the Committee for Ministry to the Ageing. However, due to a lightbulb moment, and the realisation that ministry is a two-way process, the current name was selected.

We know that we are an ageing church. The latest Australian census told us that nearly one in every six people is aged 65 years and older. The average age of people in the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) and New Zealand is 60 years. We live in an ageing society in an ageing Church.

Many of our older members grew up as regular church attenders and attended confirmation classes, church youth group (which served well as a matchmaking bureau), and ladies guild. Prior to women entering so actively into the paid work force, they served on committees where many took turns as office bearers, while also taking turns at church cleaning and flower arranging.

How different from what we see today! Our young people live in a world where values and lifestyles differ greatly from what we grew up with. What challenges and what opportunities this presents to those of us who are ageing! Among the challenges are finding opportunities and ways to open the faith conversation with people to whom faith may have been neglected for some time; among the opportunities are times when we can offer to pray at shared meal times, important family events or for family members/friends who are ill or in trouble; we can invite people to worship with us, particularly at Christmas or Easter or other significant dates. And, of course, we continue to pray without ceasing for those who are near and dear to us.

In our congregations, older members are able to provide a witness by their care and interactions with younger members. People have specific needs for ministry which are not limited to the ageing but are most concentrated there. That is the ministry with and care for the sick and the dying. Alongside of that is the ministry of care for the grieving and for those who are ageing and isolated. This is an area that the Committee for Ministry with the Ageing is starting to devote more time and energy to following a re-focus away from aged and community care services.

In 2016, a review of the governance of aged care and community services was commissioned by the LCA. During this process, the chairpersons and chief executive officers of our services asked that the church provide statement of the ethos of our services. This was undertaken as a special project along with the revision of One loving God – two hands sharing and caring which had been requested at the 2015 synod. The documents that were produced can be found at the Committee for Ministry with the Ageing website:

The website is worth checking out. The resources section includes links to God’s love – our care which can be used by groups or individuals as a Bible study/discussion guide and to Called to transformative action the ethos statement which provides the rationale for the provision of aged care and community services. These are available for all to see and copies can be ordered from the website. There are some other interesting documents there as well. The website has links to several discussion papers including one on end of life issues.

We know that, as people become older and frailer, there are physical difficulties that make life more difficult including loss of hearing, sight, sometimes the ability to swallow. Joints become less mobile. It is important that these changes are recognised – and that worship practices are adjusted accordingly. There are some suggestions about how to do this on the web page.

The LCA provides aged care in independent living units (retirement villages) and in residential care facilities. One of the distinctives of our services is that we have chaplains on our staff. The role of our aged care chaplains is to provide spiritual care to residents which is now a recognised part of aged care services. There is also an opportunity to be available to staff members.

The chaplains are not the only ones who provide spiritual care – many Christian residents are also providing a strong witness to those with whom they have contact including to other residents, staff, and family members. Worship services are an integral part of the activities within our aged care communities.

We know that love comes to life when we see God’s image in every person – no matter how old or young they may be.

The Committee for Ministry with the Ageing seeks to support people within the LCA who minister to and with the ageing and to whom the ageing are ministering. This ministry is certainly something for which we can give thanks as we pray that the seeds sown in this ministry lead to a rich harvest in God’s kingdom.

About the Author

Colleen Fitzpatrick

Along with Colleen, other members of the Committee for Ministry with the Ageing are Pastor Peter Ghalayini, Matt Johns, Geoff Thiel, Dr Clare Seligman, Angela Urhane and Wendy Rocks (consultant).

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