THOUGHT FOR CONTEMPLATION:
“What helps with aging is serious cognition – thinking and understanding. You have to truly grasp that everybody ages. Everybody dies. There is no turning back the clock. So the question in life becomes: What are you going to do while you’re here?”
(by Goldie Hawn)
PRELUDE: “Learning to Walk” (by Joseph Martin)
WELCOMING WORDS: spoken by Jean H.
CALL TO WORSHIP:
We gather together today, a community of ages: infants, children, youth, young adults, adults and elders, holding and supporting each other no matter where we are on this journey called life.
(by Rev. Dr. Nita Penfold, copyright)
INTROIT: “For the Beauty” (by L. Davis)
LIGHTING OF THE CHALICE: Maizie R-F. and Theodore T.
We gather together
To celebrate the life we share.
We light this chalice
That we might remember
To honor always the light of life
That shines in everyone.
(by Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson
OPENING HYMN: “Let It Be a Dance” (#311)
Love is the doctrine of this church,
The quest for truth is its sacrament,
And service is its prayer.
To dwell together in peace,
To seek knowledge in freedom,
To serve humankind in fellowship,
To the end that all souls
Shall grow into harmony with the Divine.
This is our great covenant,
One with another, and with our God.
SONG OF ASPIRATION:
From all that dwell below the skies,
Let songs of hope and faith arise,
Let peace, good-will on earth be sung,
Through every land, by every tongue.
CHILDREN’S TIME: “Mr. George Baker” (by Amy Hest, read by Jean H.)
SINGING CHILDREN TO THEIR CLASSES:
Go now in peace, go now in peace;
may the love of God surround you,
you may go.
CANDLES OF JOY AND SORROW
MEDITATION AND PRAYER
EXPLORING AGING: “Why It Is Important to Me” (by Chuck F.)
When I was asked to skate my shift on the Age Diversity team by delivering a testimony, I wasn’t sure whether I would offer some insight on age diversity in general, or as it relates to our congregation; in either case I would need to realize such insight. An alternative I recognized was to celebrate the uniqueness of my own aging process.
My daughter offered the suggestion to focus on differences between age groups, which naturally features prominent aspects of diversity. I can at least describe enough about that to make the point, I believe. I considered what my mother -in-law once observed about getting old: “It sucks”. I understand that, too – I think.
Diversity does by nature imply differences. The thing about age is that in some ways it is the most universal of our topics – everyone has an age. Everyone, like myself, sets a new personal record every day for the oldest one has ever been (in spite of any workout regimen or dietary supplements). But it is also true that the difference in age between any two people will never change.
Consideration of age, especially as a diversity topic, has prompted me to consult a source that is close and accessible – me. I recognized a tendency I have – one which I believe is a human tendency but which in myself seems more glaring when I am able to be honest. That tendency is to separate myself from other people. Regarding age, this started as a young child with how I felt about the large and privileged group known as “grown-ups”.
Diversity I think prompts us to consider differences; as we recognize and accept these, we can benefit benefit from others’ experiences and find the enrichment of community that I believe we all crave (at least some of the time). The differences I and my daughter can recognize immediately encompass wide swathes of popular culture and technology.
Generations have long been separated by the advent of the printed word, the telegraph, the telephone, radio, television, email, text messaging, YouTube, video streaming, Instagram, Snapchat. I suppose to some, even the latter ones of those seem old-fashioned compared to things of which I’m not even aware. I think most folks, myself included, do a reasonable job of keeping up with technology and communication, and also of helping older and younger folks with that.
Popular culture, on the other hand, seems so much more subject to taste and fashion – things for which I have both an instinctive and a conscious aversion. I do observe that things for which I have an affinity (that I do not regard as particularly archaic) seem to get described with terms and phrases such as “old school” and “back in the day”.
From these and other examples, I conclude that aspects of our lives to which we cleave and that form the basis for lots of the differences we feel between us, are really just instances of things on a flowing timeline – ephemeral, really. A timeline that seems to flow faster – observed by many, from William James in 1890 as owing to the lack of new or memorable experiences as aging advances, to a 2005 study done in Germany that shows perception of time acceleration peaking around age 50 for most (I would dispute that).
Veronique Greenwood, in an essay recently in the Globe, pointed out, “This is the fallacy of every time and place. We think we’re standing still – that, in the ways that matter most, the world has always been more or less what it is now. But things change beyond recognition, every single day… It’s mind-boggling, the forces that conspire to unmake everything we take for a permanent reality.”
For me, a focus on Age Diversity leads me right along my spiritual path. It challenges me to realize things about myself that I can be open to finding in other people; to find ways to include them, and to include myself.
OFFERTORY: “Gymnopedie No. 3” (by Erik Satie)
CHORAL ANTHEM: “The Thing That Makes You Beautiful” (by Jane Voss arr. Amidon)
READING: (Original Poetry by Olivia R-F)
HYMN: “Come and Go With Me” (#1018)
READING: (Original Poetry by Rev. Dr. Nita Penfold)
FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
No matter what they tell you
let it be about joy
let it be about the sacred
self surviving, no, thriving,
shining its way to the wisdom within;
let it be about blooming,
the unfolding of the universe through you
because the story of you begins
fifteen billion years ago
with that first flash of being.
At four, you reached out your hand
into the dark night and pulled
back in wonder, a firefly blinking
from your finger. Keep that magic,
that both you and the firefly are one–
made of stardust and moonshine as
we all are.
Let it always be about your shining.
AS I WATCH MY DAUGHTER MARRY
I remember her at eleven:
she will not let me love her,
slams the door between us,
wants to be grown so fast but
complains as her nipples widen,
soft and tender and aching.
I wish I could explain to her how
fast everything goes by and that I need
to slow it all down, but she is always
pushing for something more that she
imagines is a prize for being older and
we can never come to agreement over terms.
In a calm moment on her grandmother’s back porch,
we discover an infant robin who flew too early
on the lawn under the box elder, bottom-heavy
like a diapered baby, it’s stick wings
working furiously, barely lifting it back up
toward its rough nest again and again.
Both of us afraid to touch the bird for fear
its mother might abandon it from our scent,
we watch the baby’s struggle, cheering it on,
and my daughter slides
closer to me on the step.
The Woman At 85
wears her green rubber hip-waders into the calm lake,
casts a nylon line out across
the mist of mosquitoes,
lead sinker hobbling the hook down
with its nightcrawler bait.
A blue boat glides toward her from the far shore,
the woman at the oars a young stranger.
When the large black bass jerks the old woman’s hook
she slides off-balance but
the boat woman reaches out to steady her
and the old woman scoops the prickly fish into her net.
The woman at 85 wakes surrounded
by three pictures of Jesus in rainbow robes
and five generations of family framed on her wall,
relieved she won’t have to clean the fish, feeling
the woman’s hand still warm on her shoulder,
in the almost celestial quiet before dawn.
THINK OF A TIME WHEN
you were truly yourself, that age
before the mask was pulled tight
before the roles were welded like armor to your skin.
Remember the one thing you loved
above all else, that, given perfect freedom,
you could be found doing
when they looked for you to do something else,
something useful; the thing that made
you feel whole and hopeful,
full of something that lifted you out of yourself
but anchored you home
so that you didn’t know where that thing began, where you ended,
so much were you in the river of it, the flow
of hand to heart and heart to soul,
that was all of one piece called you.
You know what it is. Remember it.
Hold it up like a shiny vintage ornament
turn it to and fro.
It is the true gift
just below your conscious thought, itching at you
to touch it once more.
Latch onto that feeling,
let the stillness find you and the wholeness
bubble up from the bottom of your stone well.
What might you do with it now?
HYMN: “May Your Life Be As a Song” (#1059)
READING: “Warning” (by Jenny Joseph, read by Phyllis B.)
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
CLOSING HYMN: “Circle Game” (by Joni Mitchell, L.A. Express)
(Chorus, sung by congregation)
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
EXTINGUISHING THE CHALICE (read by the congregation):
We extinguish the flame but not the light of truth,
the warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.
These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.
May the long time sun shine upon you,
all love surround you,
and the pure light within you
guide you all the way home.
POSTLUDE: “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (arr. Becki Slagle Mayo)