NYNO is a resource that continues to be available for those who feel called to bring the Church to older people, segregated from the rest of society.

Since March we have been unable to meet and as a community we’ve been limited to ‘window walks’ and the telephone. Those with internet access have been able to watch the online services of our parent church. The church has also provided a conference call phone system that has allowed people to listen to services.

Not everyone has access to the internet, so we’ve run a small project providing android tablets to older people. These tablets can video call, take Zoom meetings and watch church services. They access the internet through the mobile phone network and so once everything is registered they are self-contained and ready to go. In practice, it takes older folk a while to be confident using these things, but for some it’s a lifeline.

If you’d like to know more about how we did this, technically and practically, please feel free to get in touch.

Latest Service Liturgies

The latest service liturgies can be found below and on our resources page.

Agape Meal

Communion and Agape – shortened – Debts (2)

The changes are are small and incremental. Over time, through repetition, you hear the flow of the language differently and have the chance to make adjustments.

The liturgies are include both the traditional and also, hopefully, the explain and express the particular emphases of a NYNO meal.

People are welcome to use these sheets. If you have alternative liturgies we’d be very interested to see them, or if you have thoughts about the inclusion of different material that would be great too.

Older People’s Ministry: A Church or an Act of Service

Community was at the heart of NYNO’s original vision. That which is true spiritually should also be found, falteringly, in our daily human relationships. Our understanding was that the reality of our spiritual union with Christ, and therefore our union with each other, meant that the Church should seek to be a community of mutual service and dependence.

This general ideal for church community had particular consequences when we applied it to our work amongst older people. We had observed that ministry amongst older people followed the patterns of traditional ministry. While such ministry was widely accepted and appreciated, it presented a problem for a future where professional ministry resources will be scarce. In its place, NYNO wanted to encourage the agency and participation of older people in the life of their churches. We wanted to see church communities grow, located in places that were accessible to older people (practically speaking, this meant meeting in communal areas of sheltered accommodation) and whose participants had a diverse age range. At the outset of our project we were anxious to develop relationships between the generations where members of each generation would bring blessings and be served by all the other generations. Each individual would bring different giftings; each individual would have different needs.

We were therefore very aware whenever we heard a member of the younger generations speak about wanting to be involved with a NYNO group and ‘serve’ the older members. On the face of it, this was a noble request. For NYNO this was precisely what we didn’t want. We didn’t want older members to be viewed as primarily the recipients of the ministry of younger people. We wanted younger folk to recognize what they could receive from friendship with older folk before they began to serve. The alternative, it seemed to us, would be the patronization of older people as passive recipients of the good works of younger people. We were also very aware that people who came to us would generally be coming from another church community to which they would already have a loyalty and personal relationships. It is only natural for a NYNO group to have difficulty commanding such loyalty from people. Instead, it becomes a place for service. This is, its way, admirable, but is a genuine hurdle to be overcome if the aim is to develop a new worshipping community.

The result of all of this was that we asked folks wanting to join us to come and be part of the community first, before thinking about what they could do. In doing this, the intention was that folks would appreciate the position of our less physically able members and would develop the real peer relationships that would prevent any future service – which would be needed and natural – becoming one-sided. I’m not sure this worked.

I don’t think we understood how difficult it would be for folks to simply come and develop friendships. Nor, at the moment, do I know what that difficulty was. But, as it has turned out, folks who have come and been encouraged to not immediately serve, have not stuck with the group.

There could be any number of reasons for this happening, including the personal and the clarity with which this vision of church has been consistently explained. There may also be issues with the form of worship we offer not meeting people’s expectations. Even so, the question at least has to be asked whether we have to be more tolerant and patient of people’s expectations that they are engaging with NYNO in order to serve. What this means practically is inviting new folk to come and in offering them a role as a means of finding a foothold in the community.

When NYNO started, when we were a young and vulnerable project only just finding our feet and trying to insist on our alternative approach in the face of the universal expectations surrounding older people’s ministry, perhaps then we were justified on insisting on community first and service second. Perhaps now we can afford to let people find their way in their own time.

A Maundy Thursday Communion Liturgy

You can find here a Maundy Thursday liturgy. This was put together by Ian Aitken last year. For once the service is not built around a common meal, although the words draw heavily on our liturgies that are.

This service has tended to operate as quite and solemn evening meeting for adults. Unlike our other meetings we haven’t gone out of away to make the meeting comfortable for the young.

You are welcome to use the sheet . It would certainly be interesting to hear from you if you do so (you can use the contact page on this website), whether you follow our practice or adapt things for your context.

On Children in Church

Sometime after his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a child to him and “he put him in the midst of them.” Then Jesus said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:1-4).

The disciples (church) continued to argue over greatness. Even after the Sermon on the Mount, in which all our categories are flipped on their heads and everything is turned upside down, they were arguing over greatness. Even after Jesus had blessed the poor, the hungry and the persecuted, the disciples were still fixated on greatness. Worldiness is a hard habit to break.

In response, Jesus called to himself a child – the essence of one who is powerless, dependent, needy, little, and poor. He placed the child “in the midst of them,” as a concrete visible sacrament of how the Kingdom looks. Jesus’ act with the child is interesting. In many of our modern, sophisticated congregations, children are often viewed as distractions. We tolerate children only to the extent that they become “adults” like us. Adult members sometimes complain that they cannot pay attention to the sermon, they cannot listen to the beautiful music, when fidgety children are beside them in the pews. “Send them away,” many adults say. Create “Children’s Church” so these distracting children can be removed in order that we adults can pay attention.

Interestingly, Jesus put a child in the center of his disciples, “in the midst of them,” in order to help them pay attention. The child, in Jesus’ mind, was not an annoying distraction. The child was a last-ditch effort by God to help the disciples pay attention to the odd nature of God’s kingdom. Few acts of Jesus are more countercultural, than his blessing of children.

Hauerwas and Willimon, Resident Aliens (Nashville, Abingdon: 1989), pp. 95-96.

Without eschatology …

… we are left with only a baffling residue of strange commands, which seem utterly impractical and ominous. We ignore the commands on divorce and lash out at our people on peace. The ethic of Jesus thus appears to be either utterly impractical or utterly burdensome unless it is set within its proper context – an eschatological, messianic community, which knows something the world does not and structures its life accordingly.

Hauerwas and Willimon, Resident Aliens (Nashville, Abingdon: 1989), p. 90.

There is much to be enthused about in chapter four, which is entitled ‘Life in the Colony: The Church as Basis for Christian Ethics’. The idea of a church as primarily a community whose worships and witnesses through their corporate Christian identity and character, offers both political relevance and an escape from party tribalism. Being faithful to Christ cannot effectively be reduced to a left or right position, but has its greatest significance to the world in its uniqueness.

At the same time, the treatment of the Sermon of the Mount is still not quite satisfying here. I agree with the eschatological context for the sermon that is emphasized. The kingdom is coming, and for this we still pray. Perhaps my frustration lies in the question of where and how that kingdom is being realized – made real – in the present. H & M seem to argue that an individualist approach to ethics and to the commands in the sermon is doomed to failure, but that a Church communitarian approach is actually what is being proposed in the text and, further, is able to (much as in yesterday’s quote) help us to live this kingdom life. Again, I think there are some really quite important things being expressed here. But, I don’t think this proposal manages to escape the accusations of being absurd and naive that they acknowledge can be levelled at the sermon when applied to individuals. On the one hand, I want to agree that the church is essential to our discipleship, worship and witness. On the other hand, we have to acknowledge that Christ’s words defeat the best efforts of Christians living in community, just as easily as individualist Christians. This is acknowledged in the concluding remarks in the chapter about forgiveness. Perhaps my frustration might have been calmed if these concluding remarks were rather more central to the chapter. The quotation from Barth on p. 83 hints at a way forward as it speaks of the Church setting up a sign for the world but how this sign might come to be, how it might differ from the reality to which it points, is not spelt out.

From an exegetical point of view, it is not obvious from the text that the Church is able to or commanded to play this positive role in perfecting our discipleship. That Christ is commanding us is obvious. That life in Christian community enables us to obey and ‘be perfect’ is less clear. This last comment is perhaps a strange point to make, given that I do think that the Christian life is a churchly life at every point, given that I do think that life lived in the Church and can make a difference to how we live. I suppose my thoughts are that unless we have a realistic sense of the Church’s limitations and frailties, at the same time as a belief that God is working in us and in our dependence on his work, we will find ourselves disillusioned and doubting. The Church – of which am I part of course – is so bad at keeping these words, to propose that by being in community we could keep Christ’s words just isn’t plausible. This isn’t because I lack faith (!) but rather because central to the sermon is the demand for perfection. This demand allows us to imagine the impossible and unexpected but it also completely crushes us and our expectations of moral adequacy … if we are honest.

I suppose what needs to be fleshed out here is a discussion of the realization of the kingdom – its primary presence in the life of Christ – and so our individual and communal connection to him in life of the Spirit. This allows us to speak of the kingdom in absolute terms – not molding it into something ‘possible’ that we can imagine keeping – and allows us to expect and to try the humanly speaking absurd or impossible. It allows us to imagine that older people might be placed first in the kingdom, that the diversity of the church might make the sacrifice of moving to the most vulnerable and excluded. It does this while recognizing the difficulties involved, our fears and doubts – our need for faith.

When the only contemporary means of self-transcendence is orgasm …

Christian ethics depends upon the Christian story. Christian ethics makes no sense apart from the recognition that we are also on an adventuresome journey which requires a peculiar set of virtues. For example, when Christians discuss sex, it often sounds as if we are somehow “against sex.” What we fail to make clear is that sexual passion (the good gifts of God’s creation) is now subservient to the demanding business of maintaining a revolutionary community in a world that often uses sex as a means of momentarily anesthetizing or distracting people from the basic vacuity of their lives. When the only contemporary means of self-transcendence is orgasm, we Christians are going to have a tough time convincing people that it would be nicer if they were not promiscuous. … We believe that it is only when our attentions are directed toward a demanding and exciting account of life that we have any way of handling something so powerful, so distracting, so creative, and so deadly as sex.

Hauerwas and Willimon, Resident Aliens (Nashville, Abingdon: 1989) pp. 63-64.

Comment: What has this to do with NYNO?

NYNO aims to help people envisage and embark on building new church communities in unconventional places that just happen to be particularly accessible to older people. One of the challenges we face is changing the assumptions (often fearful) that younger generations will often have about what such churches might be like. What we are trying to say is that there is far more freedom for you in such a church, far more possibilities, far more joy and satisfaction than you probably imagine. Being part of such a witnessing community is not meant to be a chore, but an exploration, a discovery of who you are in fact – a discovery that can only be made in the context of God’s community. Strange to say, but being involved with a NYNO community with others of a variety of ages (according to H and W ) can help us deal with lots of desires that pull us one way or another and that we struggle to know how to deal with. Put simply, it may be that our faith and Church community provides us with a vision for the whole of life (a larger story into which ours fits) that allows our desires to be a affirmed and ordered sensibly, rather than to float without anchor, forever vying for supremacy with our good intentions.

A Shortened Liturgy for this Sunday

We’re going to try a slightly shorter order this Sunday.

I’ll continue to offer a short very reflection on the Lord’s Prayer as the opening act, before everyone gathers around the table for our meal.

I’ve worked through the grace prayer a little, but the biggest change is removal of the Creed. My thinking is that the sermon and the creed can make for a formidable number of words. We’ll see how it goes.

Agape Meal (6) – Shortened

Edit: Mon. 20 Jul. 2015.

It went fine I think. However, I forgot the offering in the liturgy. Surely a good sign when people remind you that you’ve missed it!

Agape Meal (6) – Shortened – offering

Planning for the Future, Factoring in the Present

A NYNO service, as we’ve been developing and practising them in Stockethill, Aberdeen doesn’t look like your average contemporary church service, in the Church of Scotland or elsewhere.

If you were looking for family friendly, modern innovation, perhaps you might expect charismatic leadership, contemporary worship music and plenty of audio-visual elements. Instead, in our services, you’d just see people, apparently repeating words and occasionally stopping to sing a hymn from yesteryear.

There is a lot of scope for NYNO services to look differently to the way they do for us at the moment. We don’t claim to have the best way of doing things. What we do have though, is a commitment to finding solutions that are reproducible and sustainable, that do not require the contributions of a minister (but which leave space for them if they are available), and that go out of their way to make worship multi-generational at its heart.

There is a problem, though, in developing solutions to very real problems when those problems are not recognized by others. It’s like asking someone who doesn’t believe in man-made climate change to walk to work rather than take the car. Why would you deny yourself the company of your peers (if you are in the first half of your life, the chances are that most of your peers won’t be joining you in a NYNO congregation), why would you fore-go modern music (there’s no innate reason why a NYNO congregation shouldn’t enjoy great music, but practically speaking we haven’t been able to develop that here yet), why might you use a liturgy to guide your worship (wouldn’t a charismatic preacher/teacher be so much more inspiring)?

There is an innate challenge to working in a NYNO congregation, especially a young undeveloped one.  Many of our guiding principles do not readily produce an accessible, immediate and emotional payoff. Developing a NYNO congregation can be immensely rewarding, but you will be required to see possibilities and opportunities where others might see outdated or irrelevant spiritual practices. The challenge is constantly to keep our principles in place and to be creative.

It doesn’t seem easy to convince people to make a sacrifice unless the reward is just round the corner. Convincing people to come to a NYNO congregation rather seems like asking them to become a Christian. But, perhaps that is how it should be.