The Problem of Belonging

One of the big problems that any work like NYNO will face is that of it being ‘second-class’ church.

Most work, I’d suggest, that is done to meet the needs of older people who find it difficult to attend their old church is admirable. Putting on a small, short service, once a fortnight or once a month is not a bad thing to do. A subtle problem that those who are running it face is that we rarely think of it as church, with all the spiritual significance that would go with that. It’s a service that we do (to God and to these people in front of us), not really church on its fullness. This is understandable. There are relatively few people there. They are older than our usual congregation. We have other things to do!

We have found that even if we want to take these small congregations seriously, it’s very difficult to do. Perhaps one way of summing up the problem is that we don’t identify with these people, we don’t belong to them. In our own minds, we belong elsewhere. The amount of time and effort we spend on other congregations rather than these small ones is an indicator of where our heart is.

The problem exists in another form too. Christian residents of sheltered accommodation will often have existing long-term connections with other churches and these connections must in no way be undermined by our work.

The answer lies, we hope, in those who lead any individual NYNO congregation committing to it as their primary place of Christian worship. NYNO congregations can’t be extra good works. To be different at all, they have to be ‘first-class’ church. They have to be places in which Christians can participate in Christian community, in sharing their lives together, in which younger people can be blessed by older people.

NYNO congregations cannot primarily be about more able people going into the accommodation of older people in order to be nice to them, or even to bless them with the word of God. That risks being patronizing. If we can’t recognize that older people are our peers, that it’s genuinely a privilege to be with them, that we belong with these people, we need to think again.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *