‘Being old is just as important and beautiful as being young. Let’s remember that… ’ – Pope Francis
Updated: Dec 14, 2022
Anna Chaplain Eileen Simmons reports on a successful church party Honouring and Celebrating Wesley’s 90s:
‘In 2022 four of our congregation were celebrating their 90th birthdays and I discussed with our minister, Pastor Steve Mayo, the possibility of having a special church service. My own church is Wesley Methodist, in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. We involved their families in the planning and included those who were already over 90 in our church. The decision was taken back in January 2022 and the service took place on 27 November, the first Sunday in Advent.
‘I did lots of personal touches, which included a handwritten card to the ten people involved and talked to their sons and daughters well in advance, following up with invitation letters to their families and friends.
‘Our minister, Pastor Steve and I made joint home visits to the four involved and although we know them well an extended visit helped us both to know even more of their life stories. Each of them was invited to choose their favourite hymn and Bible passage for the service. Fortunately, three chose Psalm 23 and the fourth, 1 Corinthians 13 so both Bible passages could be included in the order of service. Each hymn was also sung to their chosen tune. For one hymn we stayed seated and our music group sang it to us. Quite superb!
‘In planning the welcome I chose Pope Francis’ words of February 2022: “Being old is just as important and beautiful as being young. Let’s remember that…”
‘The service was joyous and our congregation was bigger than our most optimistic forecast. It was just wonderful to see their grandchildren with their own babies in slings. The children of the 90-year-olds were so thrilled and grateful to see their parents honoured and cherished.
Pastor Steve spoke about what was happening in 1932 and also preached on Psalm 23.
‘We are an inclusive church and recently we have had at least five sets of new people join us. One man comes with his very young son and learning about the special service brought his 94-year-old grandmother for her first visit. When the prayer crosses made of olive wood from the Holy Land were distributed to the over–90s, she also received one, which gave me another opportunity to actively involve her great-grandson, Hugo. He usually helps take the collection and that day he also gave her a handheld cross.
‘During the service, I talked about the lives of the four who had their 90th birthdays and of their Christian commitment and service to our local community – not every congregation has a boxing coach.
‘Sometimes we have to wait until funerals to learn about people’s life stories. One of the grandchildren runs her own café and that family provided amazing cakes for the refreshments that followed the service. The buzz of conversation afterwards and the joy of a very crowded church made for a very happy time.’
Eileen Simmons (Anna Chaplain and Methodist local preacher)