Yesterday was my first time going to a Bible study group at my new church. (I wasn’t slacking – they were cancelled for the summer.) Since I’m doing tutoring on most weeknights, the only one that works for me is on Thursday mornings. Of course, most people my age are working Thursday mornings, so my group ended up being predominantly women over the age of 60 – i.e. the church grandmothers.
Now I’ve just come from a very secular, college-heavy area. The average age in my last church small group was probably 25, the oldest person was 32. So I was understandably filled with glee to finally be hanging with a whole hoard of older Christian women dedicated to their faith. The hens were clucking about the relaunch of the church’s “Women’s Guild” – apparently this is just their term for a group for all the women in the church, to practice fellowship and service. (The middle-aged priest informed me that the term “guild” was more popular in the 1950s. One woman kindly told me it was just like an auxiliary. I chuckled. Note to self: this is how they must feel when their grandchildren talk about “selfies.”)
One trend that’s affecting churches and broader American society is fairly severe age segregation. You go to school with people your age, you go to college with people your age, you work with people your age, you raise families and interact with the parents of your childrens’ friends, you die slowly in a retirement home. The Boston Globe had an interesting article on the problem a few weeks ago: http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/08/30/what-age-segregation-does-america/o568E8xoAQ7VG6F4grjLxH/story.html They focused on age segregation as a function of geographic location. As someone who lived in New England (albeit in a college setting) for 6 years, I can attest to the fact that just because you live right next to someone of a different age doesn’t mean you’ll actually engage with them, especially because the groups often have such different interests and priorities.
Ending age segregation requires intentionality, not mere proximity. I love the picture this article paints though: “seniors in retirement homes benefit when they spend time reading to children and playing with them, while young people are given the chance to absorb wisdom and life experience.” All of this age segregation is actually denying us the power that communities unlock. “It takes a village…” they say.
[My parents always cast some doubt on this phrase. I think it’s because they only had me. My village were my books, and if my parents had needed to write books to keep up with my pace of reading, they would probably be more inclined to agree with the proverb.]
So I’m pretty excited to become a part of this community and to get to know the old church ladies. The most exciting thing is that we’re going to vote in a bit for what to study after we finish 2 Samuel. Judith petitioned for the apocrypha, and I seconded the motion. After all, I said, I want to learn the story of Judith!
Spoiler alert: it involves a future old church lady and a sword.