10 May 2012
A SPECIAL SERVICE has taken place at the Methodist Church in the Hampshire market town of Alton, in celebration of age.
A lively congregation of more than eighty people from across the town and surrounding villages gathered for the second year running that the event had been held.
The emphasis was on the positive things that come with advancing age- like time to reflect, to give time to other people, and pursue hobbies and interests which often get squeezed out of busy, 9 to 5, working lives
A highlight was a “Reflection” from 104-year-old Bob Weighton, who drew on his experiences of being a Missionary-teacher in the Far East. When he told the story of a chance encounter by the road with a former Japanese policeman, who had served in Europe during the First World War, a mention of the veteran suddenly, and incongruously, striking up with the old wartime favourite “It’s a long way to Tipperary,” led to the entire congregation also, spontaneously, breaking into song!
Debbie Thompson, the town's Simeon Chaplain to Older People, described said that the day had been a happy occasion-an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of many older people.
"It's definitely going to be an annual event now,” said Debbie.
“And the rendition of 'It's a long way...' was a spine-tingling moment!
“As voice after voice joined in, we all were united - young and old - and for many you could see the memories were so poignant. "There were tears shed around the church, I can tell you.”
The service, which featured readings and prayers from older people, also included familiar and well-loved hymns, such as “Praise my soul the King of Heaven,” “Be thou my vision” and “Mine eyes have seen the glory.”
Families, carers and those in need
The emphasis throughout was on giving thanks for long lives and the love and support of families, friends and the “church family.” Prayers also remembered carers and all who are sick and frail, giving thanks for the work of doctors and nurses, and everyone who helps older people in need.
“We had wanted to say loud and clear how good it is that so many people are living longer, while not under-estimating the resilience needed to cope with some of the rigours of old age. By hearing the voices of so many older people taking part we were able to revel in their remarkable, accumulated life-experience and glean some insights from their wisdom,” continued Debbie, before closing with a prayer:
“Grant, O Lord, that the years that are left may be the holiest, the most loving, the most mature. I thank you for the past, and especially that you have left the good wine until now. Help me to accept diminishing powers as the opportunity to prepare my soul for the full and free life to come in the state prepared by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
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