Boomers and Wholeness

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.

Boomers and Supernaturalism

Another lively discussion over breakfast followed a beautiful walk along the trails along the Thames River in northeast London. In fact, we barely got past the first question on our discussion sheets!

Using Miller’s study guide, we were invited to consider which of the following we have tried or experienced:

NEW AGE PRACTICES: ESP,  Tarot Cards, Channeling, Ouija board, Astrology, Out-of-Body experiences, being bathed in light, a visit from a dead relative.

MORE TRADITIONAL CHRISTIAN PRACTICES: Divine healing, speaking in tongues, an answer to prayer, spiritual guidance, using a spiritual gift, a visit from an angel, an exorcism, hearing God’s voice as you make a decision.

The answers were fascinating and ranged from everything to having experienced all of the above to experiencing none of the above! Most of us fell somewhere in the middle, having had experiences under both categories, sometimes not always taking them too seriously, as when we were children and played with a Ouija board or our present day delight as adults in reading our horoscope every day!

The more we shared, however, we realised that in fact many of us had experienced more supernatural events than we realised. For example, many of us had had a visit from a deceased loved one, often in the form of a dream. Many of us also had also had been visited by an angel, maybe not an angel dressed in a long, flowing white garment with beautiful big wings and a halo, but a messenger (the real meaning of the word ‘angel’) from the spirit realm nonetheless.

We all agreed that the years had made us more open to a variety of spiritual and supernatural experiences, not less open to such things. One member of the group, a scientist, pointed out (in contradiction to Miller’s thesis) that far from discouraging such experiences, science had taught her to explore and question and wonder at the marvels of God’s good creation.

What about you? Can you relate to any of the above experiences? How has your view of the supernatural changed over the years? Are you less spiritual or more spiritual than when you were young? Given that Jesus operated very much in the world of the supernatural (see Matthew 8:22-33 and Matthew 9:18-26), does being more open to the supernatural help you to understand and appreciate Jesus and his healing miracles in the New Testament? And how can we build a community of faith and acceptance where people will feel safe to discuss their experiences of the supernatural?

Please join us next week when we wrap up with Miller’s final chapter on “Wholeness.”

 

 

 

Godliness and Boomers

While we very much missed a few people who needed to be away on Saturday, our discussion of chapter five of Miller’s excellent book proved to be one of our liveliest to date. In a frightening way, it was also very timely.

As the world looks with increasing alarm at the rising tensions between North Korea and the U.S., whose leaders have both shown themselves to be pathological liars  given to bluster and bellicosity, we boomers now find ourselves facing, for the  second time in our lives, the very real danger of a nuclear war,  a fear that was certainly  part of our childhood. It’s scary to think how well Miller’s comment on page 114 describes the terror that many of us feel today: “…all it takes is one mistake, one crazy person, or one fouled-up government decision by either side of the nuclear equation and the world could be blown up.”

For boomers who were the first generation to grow up in the nuclear age, this has led to four prominent attitudes which Miller outlines in this chapter. First, boomers have always questioned whether the future promised to previous generations will  be there for themselves or their grandchildren. Indeed, some boomers believe that they may well be the last generation on earth. Secondly, there is the fear that technology, far from being the promised saviour of the world, will be our destruction. Thirdly, if we have no future, many boomers argue that there is no point in saving for or investing in the future. Fourthly, as Miller writes, “the dominant view of the future is apocalyptic: the end of the world is at hand.” (p. 115)

In the seventies, a large number of boomers found solace and courage in an intensely personal, and often emotional, relationship with Jesus Christ. While this flew in the face of what many of their more mainline church parents understood to be logical, rational, intellectual and progressive, for many boomers this new Jesus gave them, for the first time ever, friendship, understanding and, most of all, unconditional love and acceptance. Moreover,  musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell made Jesus accessible in a way they had never experienced in their traditional church upbringing. As Miller writes on page 118, these musicals “scratched the core of what many boomers had been seeking, a religious experience that dug beneath the ritual and rationality of their parents’ religion and challenged the technological materialism that dominated so much of their lives.”

Others of course turned to eastern mysticism and the New Age Movement to find the spiritual meaning they were seeking and which the traditional church seemed to be so inept at providing. We turn to this topic in our discussion of chapter six next Saturday.

Boomers and Self-Seeking

A very light sprinkling of rain did not stop our Boomer group from enjoying a walk through beautiful Weldon Park in Arva this morning! And thanks to our wonderful host and those who brought goodies, we also enjoyed a delicious repast afterwards as we discussed the fourth chapter of Miller’s book: “Self-Seeking”.

The themes today engendered some lively and wonderful conversations. Some of us could really relate to the touchy-feely movement of the sixties and seventies, having experienced it first-hand in church youth groups and other organisations. Many of us could also relate to the experience of losing ourselves in false gods like consumerism or feeling as though we are stuck down some rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland. One woman, a first wave Boomer, talked about the limited options that were available to her when she was young and how she could relate to the theme of Snow White waiting for her prince to appear. Another woman saw Dorothy as a role model who empowered her to seek and find her calling and identity in life. Some talked about major super heroes that had served as models for them, or James Bond, or Frogo in The Lord of the Rings. Still others connected to the theme of Dorothy’s longing for “home sweet home.” And of course there were some who, because of geography or their family of origin, did not have any of the experiences Miller talks about in this chapter.

We agreed that self-seeking is not always a bad thing, and that if we are truly to love others, then we must first love ourselves. Recalling the teachings of feminist theologian Judith Plaskow, we were reminded that we cannot live sacrificially as Christ calls us to do if we don’t have a fully developed self to sacrifice! Harvey Cox’s interpretation of the story of Adam and Even and the serpent in the Garden of Eden was also briefly discussed. In his book On Leaving It to the Snake, Cox said that the real sin of Adam and Eve was that they failed to choose for themselves – they just left it to the snake to decide their destiny for them. Their real sin therefore was not hubris or pride but rather a failure to make their own decisions. Their failure to act meant that they did not take responsibility for their lives; they just let life happen to them. This was their real sin.

The theme of escapism was discussed at length. It was also noted that, with greater leisure time available because of modern technology, cars and modern household appliances, we also have much more time to become bored – unlike our grandparents who often worked from dawn till dusk and then fell exhausted into their beds at night.

The feeling was that Boomers have continually buried themselves in their work or various kinds of busyness in order to avoid having to ask the really big question in life: what am I here for? What is the meaning and purpose of my life? As one famous rabbi once said, there has to be “more to life than bread and cars and air-conditioned rooms.” Perhaps our boredom and restlessness is due to the fact that, in this life, we are never truly home but that we long for “that home that is not built with hands but which is eternal in the heavens.”  Or as Saint Augustine once wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

         An article by Marianne Mellinger on spiritual practices of first-wave Canadian Boomer women, led to an interesting discussion on what it means to be a “dweller” or a “seeker” and the differences between the two. In this article Mellinger refers to the writing by religious sociologist Robert Wuthnow, After Heaven:  Spirituality in America since the 1950’s, in which Wuthnow differentiates between a spirituality of ‘dwelling’ and a spirituality of ‘seeking’.  As Mellinger writes, “A spirituality of dwelling, according to Wuthnow, emphasizes habitation—to inhabit sacred space is to know its territory.  Dwelling is more typically connected to organized religion—conformity to particular tenets of faith.  Dwelling offers security, stability, community, connection. A spirituality of seeking, on the other hand, finds many sources of inspiration—counselling centres, books, spiritual guides.  Seeking offers choice, competing glimpses of the sacred, practical wisdom.  Seeking is open to novelty and values one’s own experience.  Wuthnow suggests that a spirituality of dwelling was predominant in North America prior to 1960 and that since 1960 a spirituality of seeking has predominated.”[1]

One individual observed that the Bible speaks of both “dwellers” and “seekers” and honours both paths. Perhaps, then, we need to become “dwelleekers” or “dwellingseekers” – who draw on and carry the strengths of both “dwellers” (community) and “seekers” (individual searchers and spiritual adventurers).

Thanks to everyone for a highly engaging and interesting discussion!

 

 

 

[1] Marianne Mellinger, D. Min., “Spiritual expression and practices of Canadian women born between 1946-1955”

 

Boomers and Rootlessness

This morning was another beautiful one, just perfect for our walk along the conservation trails that surround lovely Morrison Dam. Afterwards everyone came back to our house in Exeter for coffee and a delicious variety of “potluck” muffins and biscuits, cheese and fruit.

The topic today was “rootlessness” and, once again, many of us wondered if we hadn’t grown up living very sheltered lives, since some of the themes of this chapter did not really speak to us. None of us really took part in the drug culture, although we certainly knew of classmates who did smoke pot and dabbled with other drugs. Moreover, as one woman commented, when we sang “Can’t get no satisfaction”, it wasn’t because we were feeling particularly dissatisfied with life. We just liked the tune and the beat!

Another member raised an important question around expectations. What expectations did we have as young people growing up in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s? Many of us heard again and again, that the world was our oyster and that we could do anything we wanted to do in life. Our parents had come through a terrible economic Depression and an even more frightening world war, but it was worth it because now they were able to give their kids all the things that they never had. The future looked rosy — all you needed was a good education and nothing would be impossible to you.

As another said, if he  had to choose a song that really spoke to him when he was a young person, it would have been “The Age of Aquarius” by the 5th Dimension. Its hope-filled lyrics which promised the dawning of peace and harmony and understanding spoke of a time when sympathy and trust would abound. “No more falsehoods or derision” — just “golden living dreams of visions.”  Today he would say that his song would be “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” In other words, what happened to the promise of a better world where peace and love and progress rule? As Miller notes in his book, we looked at our parents’ generation and thought we could do far better. After all, they were the ones who invented the bomb and put our young lives at risk. However, when we look back over the years, we realise that we  have not created a legacy of love and peace. What happened to all our high ideals? What happened to our dreams of a better world? In other words, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”

Although some clearly felt that this chapter was titled incorrectly, most of us agreed that one thing today’s Boomers lack most is a sense of community. This disconnectedness that Miller talks about not only leaves us feeling lonely, but also very vulnerable to the scare-mongering that lies behind so much of today’s advertising. Some of us also confessed that our anxiety is not only for ourselves, but also that we are genuinely worried about our children who may not have the opportunities many of us have enjoyed, especially if we were first wave Boomers.

And what about our expectations for ourselves now that we are retired or nearing retirement age? Again, the response was mixed and depended very much on which wave of the boom we stemmed from, where we grew up, the particular career path we followed, and the current state of our health. Most were hopeful, but cautiously so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boomers and Loneliness

This past Saturday we all enjoyed a delightfullovely walk along the beautiful paths near Ric and Susan’s lovely home. We welcomed two new members to our group as well: Diane and Stephanie.

An interesting discussion on Miller’s second chapter “Loneliness” followed over breakfast. As Miller points out in this chapter, “To a boomer, a ‘family’ could mean a number of options. A family could be a divorced man and a divorced woman living together in a trial marriage. A family could be remarriage on the part of both husband an wife, each bringing along a couple of children, thus making a blended family. A family could be two gay men who are married with an adopted child, or a single parent with two children. A family may be a single mom with her twenty-something daughter and ninety-something mother living under the same roof. The descriptions of ‘family’ are endless.” (Craig Kennet Miller, Boomer Spirituality. Seven Values for the Second Half of Life, p. 41) Gone, for the most part, are the Ozzie and Harriett families most of us grew up with: working Dad, stay-at-home Mom, and two kids.

Looking back on my childhood, I didn’t know any single Moms raising children on their own, with the one exception of my friend Vicki, whose Dad died before we started high school. I didn’t know any gay couples — or if I did, I didn’t know they were gay. I only remember one family in our whole elementary school, from kindergarten to grade eight, whose parents were divorced. All this was to change when we Boomers grew up. The divorce rate began to rise as it had never done before.

The interesting thing is that Boomers, now in their 50’s and 60’s, are still divorcing. It’s called grey divorce and it is on the rise even here in Canada. In June of 2016, Zoomer Magazine reported that in Canada divorce is sparking among the 50-pluses and becoming an increasingly common event for couples aged 65 and older. As a result, loneliness among Boomers is also on the rise.

As Miller writes, the biggest challenges to boomer marriages (and indeed any meaningful relationships) are time and attention. These are valuable commodities of which boomers have always had far too little.  Today many of them are paying heavily for the endless hours of overtime they put into their work lives when they were younger. Divorce is not the only problem. As Miller points out, many are also alienated from their adult children and long for a sense of family as well as companionship.

There is of course a big difference between being alone and being lonely. One can be lonely in a marriage, while another can lead a very fulfilling single life. The key is to have a good network of friends. This is where churches can be supportive of boomers, by providing them not only with meaning and hope but also with a strong sense of community.  If loneliness is fundamentally a spiritual problem, the church can provide boomers with grace and healing by welcoming them into the family of God.

A Great Start to our Boomer Study Group!

This past Saturday marked the first day for our study of Craig Miller’s book “Seven Values for Boomer Spirituality.” We had a delicious breakfast at Jennie’s in St. Marys and, while we had to contend with some background noise, I think everyone was able to share their thoughts and ideas. We also enjoyed a beautiful walk beside the falls and along the old railroad bridge that overlooks this picturesque town.

After filling out an introductory quiz to see if we really qualified as a Boomer, we discussed some of the key events in the US that had had an impact on many Canadian Boomers, especially the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, and Watergate. We also looked at some of the major events taking place in Canada during the sixties and seventies, like Expo ’67, the rise of Trudeaumania, and the FLQ Crisis. One of the first-wave Boomers talked about the excitement of attending a packed auditorium at Western University to hear the charismatic Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Others recalled trips to Expo ’67 or how they felt when the Trudeau government enacted the War Measures Act during the October Crisis of 1970.

What quickly became very clear is that we did not all experience the same things in the same way. For example, depending on whether we were an early Boomer, a mid-wave Boomer or part of the third wave of Boomers, different events played different roles in our developing consciousness and had differing impacts on us. No surprise there. However, age was not the only factor that was key. One woman talked about being raised in remote Prince Edward Island without a television and by rather strict Baptist parents. Much of the euphoria, restlessness and turmoil of the sixties did not even touch her. My own experience was very different, having been raised as I was on the Windsor-Detroit border with four major TV channels (a huge selection back then!) and the continuous barrage of American news. For me, as well as for some of those raised in nearby London, bomb drills were a regular feature of school life.

Regional differences were significant as well when it came to discussing the FLQ Crisis and the kidnappings of British diplomat James Cross and Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte. Living in southwestern Ontario I experienced the War Measures Act as an extreme violation of our civil rights and a symbol of a broken society, while another woman in our group who had grown up in Montreal at the time saw this act as a much needed measure in a society that had grown very frightening, violent and which was out of control. Her friend was engaged to marry Pierre Laporte’s son. Naturally she and many other Quebecois were shattered when Laporte’s murdered body was found in the trunk of a car after James Cross had been returned to his loved ones safe and alive.

For at least two of our members, one who grew up in Northern Ireland and another who was raised in Scotland, the IRA, Margaret Thatcher and the Brighton Bombing on October 12, 1984, had a far greater impact.

After spending some time discussing how each of us experienced brokenness in our generation, one woman observed that nowhere does Miller give us a definition of what he means by “spirituality”. She also reminded us that our spirituality is born out of the brokenness of the Cross. In the breaking of the bread, she said, we experience Christ’s self-giving love and are made whole. Thus it is through brokenness that we find meaning and wholeness.

This coming Saturday, July 15th,  we will be meeting in London and discussing  chapter two “Loneliness”, which Miller identifies as the second major spiritual reality for Boomers after “Brokenness”.  We look forward to another lovely walk, this time on the trails in Stoneybrook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only Six More Days Until Our Boomer Spirituality Group Meets!

Want to grow your spirituality in the second half of life? Then this group is for you!

This is a reminder to those of you who have already registered — and an invitation to those of you who have not had a chance to do so — to join our summer Breakfast Discussion Group this summer! Feel free to come to all the sessions or as many as you are able to get to — we know that many people take holidays in the summer and if you can’t make it to every session, we are happy to welcome you when you can! (although obviously you will get more out of the study if you are able to come to all the sessions!)

We will be reading and reflecting on Craig Kennet Miller’s wonderful book Boomer Spirituality: Seven Values for the Second Half of Life. Beginning at 9:30 a.m. this coming Saturday, July 8th we will meet for a walk in St. Marys, ON and then join together for a time of breakfast and conversation about the introduction and chapter one of Miller’s book. We will be meeting at Jennie’s Restaurant, 830 Queen St. East. Depending on the weather, we will decide whether to walk first or eat first. Please be sure to collect your book at Siloam United Church, 1240 Fanshawe Park Road East, London ON in preparation for our study. Cost of books is $22 each. Please note: the office is now operating on summer hours — Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.   For more information, please contact me at smacgregor@siloamunnitedchurch.org

While Miller is writing out of an American context, many of the events he talks about had an impact on Canadian Boomers too. This week I invite you to think about the events he discusses in the introduction and chapter one and also to add events in Canada that spark memories for you. For example, in light of our nation’s 150th celebration of Confederation yesterday, what do you remember about Canada’s 100th birthday? Did you go to Expo ’67? How old were you and where were you at the time of the FLQ Crisis, when the Trudeau (Pierre!) government enacted the War Measures Act? What were you doing when the repatriation of Canada’s Constitution took place in 1982? And were you one of the thousands watching or listening and cheering from afar during the 1972 Summit Series on September 28 when Canada defeated Russia at the Luzhniki Ice Palace in Moscow? Do you recall your emotions when Foster Hewitt announced the miracle finish when Paul Henderson scored with 34 seconds remaining in Game 8 to give Canada a 6-5 victory and the series?

Lots to think about! Hope you share your thoughts and join us on Saturday!

Please RSVP to smacgregor@siloamunitedchurch.org so that I can reserve the right number of seats at Jennie’s!

 

 

“Blood: It’s in You to Give!”

Okay, this not strictly about Boomers, but just think: this could be your daughter or your sister or your friend! An urgent plea on from my millennial daughter who cares deeply about her friend:

Dear friends,

A few of you may have heard me talk about a friend of mine who was recently diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). In a nutshell, this terminal disease (for which there is no cure) causes scar tissue to grow inside my friend’s lungs, making it difficult for her to breathe. It also makes it difficult for oxygen to move through tiny air sacs into her bloodstream, which her other organs desperately need.

She currently has 38% lung capacity and travels everywhere with an oxygen tank she calls Thomas (the Tank).

She’s TWENTY-NINE years old.

To say her world has become a lot smaller and her life a lot more challenging is a huge understatement.

Currently, my friend is in desperate need of packed red blood cells as her hemoglobin levels are rapidly declining because of her IPF. Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs – and YES, I had to Google that. #EnglishMajor

Unfortunately, my friend is not able to access blood because the supply is critically low and – unsurprisingly – literally thousands of other Canadians need blood every day. As an example, another friend of mine gave birth to her third child in February, but the delivery was extremely complicated and she nearly died. Blood platelets and blood products from more than 45 (!!!!!!!!!) donors are the reason she is alive today. 

With the long weekend approaching, I don’t doubt that the number of people who need blood will increase due to car accidents and other tragic events that always seem to cluster around holidays.  Canadian Blood Services is projecting a need for 60,000 blood donors by July 1 to meet the demand.

If you are in good health and able to give blood this week, next week, or really any time, I encourage you to do it! You never know whose life you could be saving.

 

Personally, I’ve taken it for granted that “other people” donate blood and that my friends and family will be magically exempt from this need. I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s taken 10 years (since donating in high school) and a friend’s illness to fully realise that I can play a role in saving other people’s lives.

If you read all the way to the end of this email, thank you. If you donate blood already, thank you. If you decide to donate because of this message, thank you. Even if you decide not to or can’t donate, for whatever reason, I’m sending you this email because I think you’re awesome, and I’m thankful to know you.

You can find out more information about donating blood at www.blood.ca Please also encourage your friends and family to donate.

Blood: it’s in YOU to GIVE!

Thank you!!

Ally