No senior discount here

Older adults are honored as ‘the saints among us’ during a hybrid worship service

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

“La finca,” part of the Comunidad Presbiteriana La Trinidad new worshiping community near Annapolis, Maryland, is seen as a place of refuge and community for those who worship there. (Photo courtesy of the Presbytery of Baltimore)

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Older Adults Ministries Network took the opportunity Sunday evening to honor “the saints among us” with a hybrid worship service originating from Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church in Baltimore and witnessed by people in nearly 20 states.

Three pastors delivered homilies during the joyful and thought-provoking service: the Rev. Deborah McEachran of Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Keith Paige of Cherry Hill Community Presbyterian Church in Baltimore and Pastor Jose H. Lopez-Chapa of Comunidad Presbiteriana La Trinidad, a new worshiping community near Annapolis, Maryland.

“You deserve some recognition, my brothers and sisters,” McEachran told those in attendance, focusing a homily not on endings, but on beginnings.

At the intercultural congregation McEachran serves, members from Cameroon describe an impending birth as a mother “about ready to pop.”

The Rev. Deborah McEachran

“It seems an apt description,” McEachran said. “The womb pops open and empties itself, brusquely popping that child into a world of light and air and welcoming arms and excited voices.”

Imagine God giving birth to mountain ranges, as the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney does for one of the Scripture passages for Sunday’s worship, Psalm 90:1-6. Gafney translates God as “Mother of the Mountains” here, McEachran said.

“It is this God, the Mother of the Mountains, who offers a place of refuge for every generation, young and old and all those in between,” McEachran said. “This Mother continues to give birth to new ideas, new forms of ministry to people we know and people we don’t know. Look at the ways God has popped during these last two years, when we have been learning to connect in different ways … We have learned to record worship, meetings and educational offerings, extending our reach over miles and over time. This birthing God is always active within each of us and each of our communities.”

“Keep your eyes open,” McEachran suggested. “You are going to be called upon to assist in birth, like a midwife. How might you be needed to help the next generation see God as the Mother of the Mountains, the Mother of us all, the one who gives birth to new challenges, new ministries and new hopes?”

Families from Central America and Mexico cultivate crops and their faith at “la finca,” or “the farm.” (Photo courtesy of Comunidad Presbiteriana La Trinidad)

Lopez-Chapa described CPT, as his new worshiping community is known, as “a small farming project we have on a beautiful farm near Annapolis. The world opens up for me every time I go there … It gives me the chance to look around and see meticulous gardens and a picturesque red paneled barn.” It’s referred to as “la finca,” or “the farm,” a central gathering place for work, worship and fellowship.

The 10 parcels take up perhaps half a football field, he said. Each is rented to a family from Central America or Mexico. “During the growing season, you can come over after work or on the weekend and find a number of families tending to their parcels,” he said. “The kids run around and play in the dirt while mom and dad tend to the crops. People here care for one another, and they watch out for one another.” In addition, “they prepare delicious meals to share with everybody. Homemade Guatemalan and Salvadoran food is so good!”

La finca is “a place of rest and a place of freedom, a place of holiness, renewal and hope,” Lopez-Chapa said. “It’s a place where we know where God is” and how, as the psalmist said, “God existed even before the mountains” were made. “Anyone who has ever climbed a mountain, hiked a remote trail or gazed upon a waterfall must have shared a similar thought,” Lopez-Chapa said. “No matter what happens, God is always there with us. This, dear friends, is our faith. The Lord is our refuge, our dwelling place, our home. Thanks be to God.”

“Church, we are looking for a place to dwell,” Paige said. “We feel disconnected sometimes. We may be living in a house, but we might not feel at home. Lord, where is our dwelling place? Our spouse may be gone or in a nursing home, or perhaps we are the caregiver. We don’t want to be a burden. Where is our dwelling place?”

The Rev. Keith Paige

“We need a dwelling place for our own bodies,” Paige said. “We run from one doctor to the next. Our travel is limited, our friends our disappearing and our children have lives of their own. Where is our dwelling place? God has an answer: ‘Lord, you have been our dwelling place.’”

“We can look at uncultivated ground and see a farm. Why? Because the Spirit of God, the God who caused Creation to pop, that God is able to bring forth Creation not just once, but from generation to generation … We must take that step to start cultivating. When our neighbor needs help, we need to be the people we want our children to be.”

“That love, grace and mercy we received from God on the mountains? We can pass that along to a generation that may not want to learn but needs to learn,” Paige said. “When our hands become arthritic and our eyes become dim, when we can no longer fix the wonderful dishes, we will have a generation to say, ‘Mama, daddy, let me help you with that.’”

“We are receiving what the Lord of the Mountains has given to us — a Creation that continues to pop,” Paige said. “This is what we can pass from generation to generation. Thanks be to God! Amen.”

The mission of the Presbyterian Older Adult Ministries Network is educating and equipping leadership and aging congregations to promote and engage in activity, wellness, care, and social involvement. Its purpose is to educate, advocate, develop and share resources, and train leaders by raising awareness around issues facing those who serve older adults, and are older adults, all in a covenant relationship with the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Learn more here.


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