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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Older men and women – rich in experience – are enriching the church

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

All Saints Church, Ripley in the Yorkshire Dales

Many are the churches in country areas, particularly, where a small group of older parishioners keep the flame of faith alive.

If you are following the BRF Advent book Sharing the Christmas Story, by Sally Welch (BRF, 2022), you may have been struck, as we were, by the tribute paid to such observant older men and women in congregations up and down the land.

In Saturday’s reflection on 1 John, Sally Welch reminds herself not to be discouraged at comparatively small numbers of older people in a rural church, for example, but to remember the thousands of years such a small body of older faithful believers represent; reflecting myriad experiences and all that each has given over the years within the walls of a small church. Our network of Anna Chaplains will resonate with such sentiments, we're sure.

'If there were 15–20 congregants, at an average age of 60 that would be between 900 and 1,200 years of human experience gathered in one place' the author writes.

'And Sunday by Sunday, they have gathered, and still do, bringing all those years and offering them at the altar, praising God in a building which in its turn might have been standing for hundreds of years.'

'There will have been times of great doubt during those years, doubt felt by individuals and whole communities, as sickness, failed harvests or conflict assailed them, but faith has continued; trust in the light, witnesses to the fact that the light has not been overcome by the darkness.'

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. – 1 John 1:3–5, KJV.

Sally Welch has been a parish priest for 20 years, having ministered in both rural and

urban contexts within the Diocese of Oxford. She is currently the diocesan spirituality

adviser and co-director of the Centre for Christian Pilgrimage. Sally is a committed pilgrim and has walked many pilgrim routes in the UK and Europe, and has plans for walking many more.



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