Loneliness kills. It is associated with massive increases in mortality from just about any ailment. The most at risk for loneliness? Senior citizens. After age sixty, two-fifths of people report being lonely. Following the COVID-19 Pandemic, people of all ages can understand the difficulties of isolation personally. For the first year especially, as we adapted to shelter-in-place measures, we all learned a bit more about what being alone means. As Christians, we believe that community was one of God’s first gifts to humanity.
“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone…”(Genesis 2:18a, NRSV)
As the world has resumed much of its previous activity, only so much progress has been made to help seniors connect with others. This is where new CLM Jim Rogers and the people of Warwood UMC saw an opportunity to serve. “We wanted to let them know they are loved and valued…” said Pastor Heather Rogers of the Warwood – Short Creek Charge, “…we felt we needed to address them and their needs.” Since engagement and company were on the top of the list, game days were a natural solution. These days offer “a free, no-pressure gathering of peers that encourages all seniors to enjoy a casual recurring time and place to socialize.”
Family and friends are invited to join participants, who bring their own games and suggest future ideas for events. The lunchtime meetings are an opportunity to share a meal together, as well as participate in a variety of activities. “By listening and reacting to our community, our team makes the ministry a living, evolving activity for those enjoying it.” The ministry has reached beyond the doors of the Church, bringing in as many non-member participants to the event as there are regular Church members.
This ministry is planned with a clear intention – to develop a supportive community, not only within Warwood United Methodist, but its surrounding communities. While this ministry is focused on seniors, working with them to eliminate loneliness in the community, it engages people across all age groups. The development of peer relationships is only part of the overarching ministries of the church. The church is not stopping with game days. “…The goal is for additional, recurring senior ministries to be initiated on a regular basis.” A grief group and a weekly church service at the local high-rise are just some ministries currently in discernment.
Wherever we gather as the Church, we are part of one divine family. The work of Warwood United Methodist Church is just one instance of this, but it is a shining example all the same. In a world that often pushes senior citizens to the margins of society, ministries like this remind us that God’s kingdom is not the kind of place someone can “age-out” from relevancy. Jim Rogers summarizes this idea simply, “The Warwood Senior Ministry is a mission of, by, and for Seniors to help develop that past sense of community today, friendships, self-esteem, self-worth, value, and discipleship/mentorship capabilities for the advancement of Christ’s teachings to the world.”
If you would to reach out for more details about this ministry and how you might begin something similar in your community, please contact Warwood United Methodist Church.
John Langenstein is the Provisionally Ordained Pastor of North View United Methodist Church, and United Methodist Temple in Clarksburg, and a member of the Conference Communication Team.