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Learning from cultures that regard aging as sacred

Presbyterian Older Adult Ministries Network offers free resources for Older Adult Week

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Fern Cloud, a commissioned ruling elder, is among those who will be leading workshops. Hers is on “The Circle of Life. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — To help equip congregations for Older Adult Week in the PC(USA), which begins on Sunday, May 2, the Presbyterian Older Adult Ministries Network is offering a series of free webinars. In partnership with the PC(USA)’s Office of Christian Formation in the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the first of three webinars, “The Circle of Life,” is being offered from 7 p.m. through 8 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, April. 22.

Presenter Fern Cloud will be ordained as a teaching elder in May. She currently pastors  Pejuhutazizi Presbyterian Church, an Upper Sioux Community in Granite Falls, Minnesota, as a commissioned ruling elder.  Cloud, who is also stated clerk of the Dakota Presbytery, will give insight into how life’s journey is viewed in Native American culture.  She said there are four seasons and four directions, so there are four stages in life. These stages — birth, adolescence, adulthood and the elderly — are viewed through the “Circle of Life,” which is referred to as a medicine wheel or sacred hoop.

“This becomes a teaching for our way of life,” she said. “Birth and death are very symbolic in our culture, so we regard our elders with great wisdom because they have experienced the whole circle and have such experience of life learning, which is greatly appreciated.”

Because some cultures don’t quite see the passages of life in this way, Cloud said she is honored to be the person to share Native American spirituality and her way of life with those attending the POAMN webinar.

“God has given Native people the gift to see God through our natural world,” she said. “When we are born, we are connected [to all living things].  At every gathering we start and end with this prayer, ‘Mitaku Owasin’ which means, ‘We’re all related.’”

the Rev. Ida Rosario

Stephanie Fritz, coordinator for Christian Formation, is excited about what POAMN is offering this year for congregations engaged in older adult ministry, through the lens of celebrating longevity around the world.  Along with “Circle of Life,” two other webinars will be offered:

The Rev. Ida Rosario, who serves as a minister of a multicultural church in partnership with a Hispanic congregation of recent immigrants, will address some of the challenges older Hispanic adults face adapting to cultural realities in our world. These challenges can arise from differences between them and their children who have been socialized to the norms of the U.S. They can also face cultural shock and lack of resources — including difficulty in obtaining health care.

the Rev. Jae Kim


  • Korean Milestone Birthdays, Immigrants and Korean American Church — May 7, noon-1 p.m. Eastern Time. The Rev. Jae Kim, senior pastor at New Blessing Church in Duluth, Georgia, will explore the tradition of Koreans throwing big parties for older adults particularly when they meet milestone birthdays of 60, 70, 80 and 90. Kim will show how this birthday tradition contributes to what Korean American immigrant churches contribute to empowering older adults spiritually.

The Presbyterian Older Adult Ministries Network recently published this resource.

“We have a lot to learn from cultures that regard aging as sacred,” Fritz said. “Faith formation is a lifelong process. Our older adults have an important role as they pass the faith to the next generation.”

Each of the webinars will be translated into Korean and Spanish. Participants can request translation when they register. The deadline for language translation request for “The Circle of Life” is April 14, for “Older Adults of Hispanic Heritage” April 19, and for “Korean Milestone Birthdays” May 3.

Along with the webinars, POAMN has created a 2021 planning guide full of ministry ideas and worship services from around the world. The organization also has a new resource library page, along with Mental Health Matter Quicksheets Part 1 and 2 to assist congregations in planning and preparing activities for Older Adult Week.

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