Every Sunday at 1pm, North County hosts a small worship service at a local home for the aged—Casa Escondida. It's not really well attended. Maybe a couple dozen. That's not what matters. What matters is the people who are there. They are the hidden people. Many of them have been abandoned by their children and loved ones.
Tonight, NCCC ventured over there—to Casa Escondida (literally, "Hidden House" en Espanol). What an sadly ironic name.
We spent some time singing carols, eating cookies and punch, letting our kids have silly conversations with them and having good adult conversation those who came. The picture above is actually from last year's trip to Casa. That's my youngest daughter Olivia (then age 4), sitting between two elderly ladies. The image warmed my soul so much I had to snap a cell-phone pic even though I was singing on the praise team (Ssshhh…don't tell anyone).
What NCCC did tonight isn't a big deal. It was simply letting them know they can't hide from the church down the street. We see them. We're glad they're around. We'd love to worship with them. They are not hidden.
The elderly are a group not often included on the list of people most churches seek to minister to. We tend to move to the front of the ministerial priority line those who are most obviously in immediate need. I guess we need to do some of that. But, what about the elderly? What about the "widows and orphans" we are called to help. It seems to me that many elderly are both at the same time.
In some churches it's actually considered cool to not have many elderly people. "The presence of many elderly is a sign of a church in decline," some say. Why do we say such things? I think I know what we mean. I think we are trying to point out the value of attracting young people, especially young families—for the future well-being of the church. OK. It is important. Agreed. I will also concede that the presence of lots of older people with very few younger people can be a sign of tough times down the road for a church. However, we must seek to reach younger people without forgetting the elderly. Frankly, younger people could actually benefit a great deal from some maturity and heterogeneity in their social circles. But I digress…
At the most basic level — we need to remember that the needs of the hidden people are as real as those who aren't. We should remember that "widows and orphans" we are called to minister to can be the same people. The dusk of life can be a lonely time, and I hope when I'm there, someone will offer me the gift of friendship. Churches, let's keep the elderly in our view. Jesus would be pleased.
I'd love to hear how some of your churches are ministering to the elderly. If you feel so inclined, please post it!