Gift of Years Project: Recording the Stories of Saints
Rev. Thaddaeus Allen | November 14, 2013
Written by Rev. Thaddaeus Allen, Regional Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia
Capturing the stories of older adults, as they talk about their faith, life’s journeys and share hard-won wisdom is an awesome adventure. Their facial expressions and the nuances of their voices reveal momentous moments, deep pains, and the joy of well lived lives. Their stories and their witness is profoundly moving.
At First Christian Church in New Martinsville, West Virginia, there are twenty-three, active senior members (between the ages of 80 - 92). Pastor Vic Hunter notes how, “they are vital and active contributors in the work and wisdom of the life of our congregation. Their stories of faith and experience make a rich resource for faith development education and historical insight.”
Recently, this group of seniors was recognized during an All Saints Service. They were honored with a luncheon during which a new project was announced. This project is called “Lives of the Saints: Photographs, Memories, and Things That We Believe In.” The project includes interviewing these gifted “saints” of the church. We are inviting them to share their stories of faith, their lives in the church, and the wisdom they have garnered along the way.
Pastor Hunter reflected to me how, “it is a sort of ‘story corps of faith,’” as he recalled the popular National Public Radio story project, which is now being preserved at our U.S. Library of Congress. The possibilities from our Lives of the Saints project are tremendous. We hope to use the collected stories as Christian education programs in our churches, as part of special celebrations especially related to Disciples leaders and saints, as meaningful memorials, and as a way of keeping alive the amazing experiences and wisdom of our elders.
As a video archive, the Lives of the Saints collection is one element of the Gift of Years Project a collaboration of the West Virginia Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the National Benevolent Association (NBA).
Serving as the Regional Minister and President for Disciples in West Virginia, I have been blessed with the elders and sages in our region, our congregations, and our communities. These individuals embody deep streams of grace, wisdom and life. As we collect the stories of their lives, the image of resting at their feet to deeply listen to the wisdom of their years compels and faithfully moves me. In these moments of deep listening and connecting with one another, I believe the risen Christ is present and we open ourselves anew to the grace and love of God. Our scriptural “Simeon's and Anna's” truly surround us and are part of our church. May we be open to receiving the wisdom, and power of their stories and of our shared witness together.
Another initiative that is emerging at First Christian Church in New Martinsville is tentatively being called “Access Point.” Pastor Hunter reflects that, “the members of our church seek to establish a center for human wholeness. We imagine this center to be open to all our churches in the region. We hope that this center can connect seniors and older adults for a variety of services and resources.” Already, I am envisioning this center for human wholeness to be a blessing and another opportunity for deep connection within our Disciples communities.
As the Gift of Years Project continues to develop with Disciples and congregations in West Virginia, I am not alone in our high hopes and vision to enhance the lives of seniors in our communities. We seek to recognize their gifts and empower them to share their lived wisdom. We also commit ourselves to supporting and caring for their special needs. The Gift of Years Project is a program with, for, and on behalf of our Disciples seniors.