As Christians, we believe that soon after God created humanity, God saw their need for company.
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 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. “To let them know they are loved and valued,” said Pastor Heather Rogers of the Warwood – Short Creek Charge UMC’s, “we felt we needed to address them and their needs.” Since that need was obviously for engagement, the answer was clear – game days. 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 may bring their own games, use games onsite, or suggest future ideas for events. The lunchtime meetings are an opportunity to share a meal together, as well as participate in games of all kinds. The Church listened to its community and found they needed to move their date and time. Why? Transportation to doctors’ appointments is available on Tuesdays, the initial day of the event. “By listening and reacting to our community, our team makes the ministry a living, evolving activity for those enjoying it.” The ministry involves people in and out of the Church, with a nearly perfect split of people coming from outside the Church community and within.
This ministry is planned with one singular intention – to develop a supportive community not only within Warwood but its surrounding communities. While this ministry is focused on seniors, working with them to eliminate loneliness in the community, it involves 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.” The first of these will hopefully be a grief group.
The church is a gathering of people, all those “called,” to be part of one divine family. The work of Warwood United Methodist Church is just one manifestation 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,” of being a part of. Jim Rogers summarizes the work with the community 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.”
John Langenstein is a Licensed Local Pastor at North View United Methodist Church, Clarksburg, and a member of the Conference Communication Team.