'Pure gold' from a pioneer of ministry among older people
Updated: Apr 22
It's a decade since Graham Hawley's report came out, Crying in the Wilderness: Giving voice to older people (MHA, 2011). Today the retired Methodist minister held a dozen or so participants spellbound in an online webinar when he spoke of the significance of narrative in pastoral care among people in their later years.
The webinar was one of a series from the charity, Christians on Ageing. Graham Hawley's exposition of the Why? What? and How? of valuing the narratives of older people was described as 'pure gold'.
Also on the webinar was Albert Jewell, who co-authored Crying in the Wilderness – now, unfortunately, out of print, although Albert Jewell said he still had a few copies stashed away! Participants, who included several Anna Chaplains from Southampton, thanked them both for their contribution to this ministry.
Their message – based on research involving many conversations with older Christians and some non-churchgoers over a lengthy period – is such a timely one. Ten years on and we still don’t see the church in its broadest sense, as Graham Hawley made clear, really making the most of people’s gifts once they retire, beyond wanting them to carry out roles which 'bolster the institution itself'… regarding them, rather, as more of a 'burden in terms of needing pastoral care than anything else'.
And yet… the message of 'story' being so relevant to all ministry among older people has certainly gained traction in that time. I, for one (writes Debbie Thrower), don’t think Anna Chaplaincy would have been shaped in the way it has been by the need to honour the narrative of an older person’s life without that particular report (and, indeed, James Woodward’s book Valuing Age).
If there were ever an example of honouring extreme old age – here is Bob Weighton of Alton, Hampshire, at 102. He went on to become 'the oldest man in the world' according to the Guinness World Records in 2020, living to the age 112.