Sunday, November 26, 2017: Aging


“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.


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.


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.)


Go now in peace, go now in peace;

may the love of God surround you,



you may go.




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)


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–

everything connected

everything possible,

made of stardust and moonshine as

we all are.

Let it always be about your shining.



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.


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)