My start in Older Adult Ministry years ago was prompted by a couple in our church whose maiden aunt had come from another town to live in an apartment behind their house. She was legally blind and had some mobility problems as well. The couple wanted the aunt to be involved in the church, but there were few ways that she could. I asked what the aunt missed most about not being able to attend and participate the way she had when she was younger and I was told that she "missed the fellowship." Consideration of that statement has been one of the foundational pillars of Older Adult Ministry for me. Not only have I pondered what "missing the fellowship" means, but I have also continued to ask how to extend the "fellowship of believers" to those who can no longer regularly attend.
Today I have a personal understanding of "missing the fellowship." The Church has been an integral part of both Tom's life and mine since we were born. The Church has nurtured us and taught us; it has celebrated our joys and grieved with us in our losses. Worship services and other church events and activities have been our priority. They have gone on our calendar first, other things were secondary. Granted, part of this is habit, one instilled in us by our parents, for which I am glad. My dear mother-in-law taught me the value of good habits. Not being in worship on Sundays, not being actively involved is a hard habit to break!
Greater than the "habit" is the need to be connected to fellowship of believers. Worshiping together introduces us to the "Sweet, sweet Spirit in this place;" studying together provides opportunity for growth; praying with and for one another is encouraging and affirming; serving together unites our lives in a common purpose. So, is the "fellowship of believers" portable? Do we have to go somewhere to enjoy it? Can it extend beyond the boundaries of the church building? The question I've asked in ministry about others has come home to roost, so to speak.
Tom's increased nervousness limits the time I can spend away from him and my lowered white count prevents my being in crowds. (Translation: don't go to church or other such gatherings.)
As a result, I've missed some opportunities to teach and preach and have had to miss a couple of presbytery meetings lately. Now I pull up my chair on Sunday morning and tune in to 2nd Presbyterian, Memphis. It's only a thirty minute service, beginning with a short anthem, reading of God's Word and the message. Currently, the minister is preaching through II Corinthians and his insights are remarkable. I am becoming a part of the fellowship of believers in a congregation that doesn't even know it. They are sharing their worship with many across the mid-South and extending their fellowship to TV viewers.
A friend of a friend contacted me by e-mail after being introduced to my blog. He shared his story and the paper he had written for his doctoral dissertation. By so doing, he reached out and ministered to me through cyber space, thus sharing the fellowship of the Spirit, the golden thread that ties believers together.
After all these years the one question remains, but the answers to it are growing day by day.