The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for all people. The Church of Jesus Christ reflects the diversity of people and by God’s grace finds strength in that diversity (1 Cor. 12:22). The Church is to follow its Lord and so to love especially those whom others might see as of less worth (Jam. 1:27).
At present, in Scotland, the NYNO Project believes the Lord is calling some of us within the Church to seek to create new local churches within which the elderly, in particular, no matter their age or infirmity, are seen as an essential part of the fellowship of Christ.
Much of the church-going population in Scotland is elderly and ageing. The pragmatic assumption of a shrinking and ageing church is frequently that its future lies primarily in engagement with the young and the culture that surrounds them. A consequence of this can be that the significance of the elderly is minimised within and outside of the Church. Christ’s vision for his Church, however, is not pragmatic but is instead one in which its weakest members are especially valued and in which the least valued of society are offered the kingdom (Matt. 5:3).
One common traditional approach of the church in its engagement with older people, particularly those in sheltered or supported accommodation, has been to care for them through visiting and, if possible, to provide opportunities for worship through a monthly short service. The limitations of this approach are at least two-fold.
- Firstly, it perpetuates the form of church that in many cases has already been rejected over the course of a life by those outside of the church, and so has limited missional impact.
- Secondly, the services and visits tend to be implicitly understood by those conducting the services and those attending as a second-class form of church: the elderly are cared for in this approach, they are not treated included in the full life of the church.
There is a need, therefore, for new forms of church which offer to the world a powerful counter-cultural witness to the kingdom of God through a refusal to view the elderly as a secondary part of the Church. Instead, we wish to include them as essential members of the body of Christ, alongside others drawn from every age of life.