Saturday’s “walk and talk” book study on Craig Miller’s wonderful book, Boomer Spirituality: Seven Values for the Second Half of Life, brought us to the end of our seven-week journey. A beautiful sunny day, it was the perfect morning for a walk along the Morrison Dam trails and for lunch and discussion on the back deck of our home in Exeter. Even our beloved Jack Russell, Oscar, had a a companion, as Diane and David brought their puppy “Smudge” for the walk too!
Our discussion was rich and wide-ranging, as we discussed everything from what salvation means to each of us, racial tensions south of the border (and elsewhere in the world), care-giving for our elderly parents, partners and grandchildren, our fears that there may not be enough people to care for us when we need help most, and of course the question of our own mortality. Two people also mentioned that they had never heard the term “nones” as a descriptor for those who do not affiliate with any religious tradition. How we reach out to the nones was therefore another topic of discussion.
As you can see, we talked about a “whole” lot of things! So it is not surprising that this week’s topic was “wholeness”.
In the biblical context of health and wellness, wholeness means being well in spirit, mind and body. As Miller notes, this value is key for Boomers and anyone seeking to connect with them:
“As boomers age, they will want to make the circle of faith, work, family and leisure into a complete package that will enable them to make sense of their lives. The material goods that they have collected will become less important; instead, a focus on well-being, family ties, friendships, and spirituality will occupy their lives.” (Miller, Boomer Spirituality, p. 141)
Elsewhere Miller writes, “Small groups that focus on creating a healthy lifestyle that integrates spiritual life will be in demand.” (p. 144)
Considering the above, we thought about all the ways that our churches could reach out to Boomers. Already at Siloam, for example, we have a wonderful healing and wellness team that has planned a host of events for the 2017-2018 year: meditation circles, labyrinth walks, drumming sessions, spiritual yoga, nature walks in Springbank Park, as well as other groups that engage body, mind and spirit. We have small group studies to engage the mind and spirit. In the Fall, in our Tuesday morning group, we will be looking at Adam Hamilton’s book, Making Sense of the Bible. Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today, and on Friday mornings we will be reading Wayne Dyer’s book Living the Wisdom of the Tao. Change Your Thoughts. Change Your Life. Some have assisted with Rev. Isaac’s garden project in which our students and young people have been working to provide healthy, home-grown vegetables for needy families.
In the spring we held two very well attended sessions on grand-parenting. It is clear that we need to do more in this area. We also need to provide more support to Boomers who are wrestling with care-giving issues and financial concerns. As Miller notes, many boomers are now caring for an older parent or ill spouse. Others are finding that they have not saved enough money for retirement or that this money has been depleted because they have in effect become the breadbaskets for their parents or adult children.
Perhaps the primary way churches can support Boomers in this time of transition is by returning to the things that we do best: providing spiritual nurture, a sense of community, and an opportunity to explore the big questions of life and faith in a safe environment. Social justice will continue to play an important role in our work as Christians, but (thankfully) we are not the only social do-gooders anymore. Many small businesses and larger corporations are trying to make the world a better place too, even if their motivation for doing so is, at least in part, about attracting shoppers who have a social conscience.
Churches that seek to be relevant today will provide boomers with opportunities to discuss our faith, while helping us find ways to express our convictions through loving actions in the world around us. They will provide a safe place to talk about the brokenness that many of us experience in our relationships, be they relationships between lovers, parent and child, between ourselves and God, and between humanity and the created world. (p. 175). Finally, they will help us to discern where and how God is calling us to serve in the second half of life and, in particular, how we can leave a legacy of love and justice to those who follow.