For the last couple of years, I have avoided blogging on Christian subjects because I belong to a generation of Christians who had high expectations from the mid-1970s of church growth and revival and were part of the New Church movement. What we have seen is several of those New Church networks completely fall apart and none of the high expectations realised. It has resulted in many of us feeling both disappointed and somewhat disillusioned even if we haven’t given up on faith. The problem is, where do we ex-charismatics fit in?
My good friend Peter Meadows has started a website called AfterWorkNet and it has an active Facebook page. He recently published an article titled, “If only church leaders grasped 5 vital truths about those retiring today.” I thoroughly endorsed the first couple of points he made:
“Those retiring today are not like their parents”
“still ‘young’ in mind and body”.
My body begs to differ, but to continue,
“[they] may want to make the most of the knowledge, skills, and experience they gathered during their working years”.
I was a senior manager in a national tourist board, the CEO of a Christian disability charity, had years of experience of marketing, market research and was a director of a national child and vulnerable adult protection charity. I don’t want all this experience to be unused in the coming years.
“Those retiring today are not ‘seniors’”
– abso-bloody-lutely. I would run a mile from any ‘seniors’ organisation. In Peter’s words,
“Indeed, most of today’s retirees would rather be anywhere other than counted among a group now designated as ‘old – whose memories are of Doris Day rather than Elvis or The Beatles.”
The most important point for me was his third one,
“Those retiring today are not ‘traditional’ worshipers”
We have morphed from traditional hymns (some of which we remember wistfully), through quality modern songs by the likes of Noel Richards, Dave Bilborough and Graham Kendrick and been shipwrecked on the banal modern worship songs like,
“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
(repeat, ad nauseum)”
© Kingsway Music 2001”
We miss the close relationships of our charismatic churches and have always seen relationships between members of the Church and relationship with God as of far higher priority than attendance at meetings. Just about the worst thing you could do to somebody that you haven’t seen in church for a couple of weeks is to point out that fact. We are all too polite to say, “You could have picked up a phone to check that I was okay.” We don’t want to do action songs – we have been there, done that and got the Ishmael T-shirt.
So what do we do? My background was originally in the Brethren Assemblies for whom any sort of liturgy was anathema. Ironically, a substantial number of my former charismatic New Church friends are now happily ensconced in Anglican churches and I can think of three that have gone on to become vicars.
My only criticism of AfterWorkNet is that most of the people posting are of the traditional evangelical variety who are most comfortable doing all their retirement activity within a church context. They will happily be involved in missions, Bible study and other groups but far too few speak of their involvement in the community with food banks, non-church nurseries and mother and toddler groups, befriending services and so on. There must be other rebels and subversives like me out there who will never give up the Christian faith that many of us have held for 50 years or more but who struggle to find a home and an identity.
Most of us have climbed out of our evangelical safe places and tapped into the rich vein of fellowship with our more liberal brothers and sisters and discovered that Anglicans and Catholics have a huge amount to offer. We did not suddenly lose our faith when exposed to something which our more conservative evangelical brethren would say was not ‘doctrinally sound’.
I’m looking for a place to worship up in north-west Wales and I don’t have many criteria. I’d like that church to be Christ centred, people-centred and with a huge sense of fun. Does it exist?
In the meantime, I’m filling my time with my grandchildren, my garden, my hobby of amateur radio (GW1PCD, if there are any fellow hams reading this), historical research, and complete geekery enjoying historic transport.