In a world where self-interest and fast-paced living seem to dominate, there are those rare souls whose hearts beat with a rhythm of selflessness and unwavering dedication. Among them is Rev. Beth Long-Higgins, an individual who has spent her life immersed in the divine calling of ministry, guided by an abiding love for community and a steady compassion for the elders among us.
Rev. Beth’s life in ministry started early, with her father being a United Church of Christ pastor, which gave her a strong sense of the importance of community and the value of every church member, including children. As an adolescent, she took part in mission projects, led worship at nursing homes and helped plan and lead youth events.
Her passion for ministry grew slowly but steadily and after graduating from Heidelberg University with her husband, David, they attended seminary together. After completing their studies, they decided to build their careers separately until Bethany United Church in Christ in Louisville, Kentucky, offered both a full-time position, which they shared for eight and a half years. During this time of serving together, they were able to be present for their children’s infancy and toddler years, which Beth credits as a blessing.
UNITED CHURCH HOMES
In 1996, Beth and David were called to split another full-time pastor position at David’s United Church of Christ in Canal Winchester, Ohio, where they both saw the church grow and the community flourish. Beth’s passion for serving older adults, which she attributes to spending time in ministry with her great grandmothers, led her to join United Church Homes as a Board Member in 2007, where she served for six and a half years. In August of 2013, she joined UCH as Director of Church and Community Relations, and in 2014, Beth helped write a new mission, vision, and values for the organization with Chief Executive Officer, Rev. Dr. Kenneth Daniel.
Under Beth’s leadership, UCH launched the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging in the organizations centennial year and she was offered a position to be the Director of the Center. Since then, she has launched Wisdom Conversations events, had Fellows serve the Center through the Dayton Foundation, created a Parker Center Advisory Committee, launched a podcast, Enliven courses, and grew the Center’s staff, all while continuing her preaching duties. In 2022, she was promoted to Vice President of Engagement, where she guides the implementation of the organization’s vision, mission, and values, and looks for ways to improve and expand connections outside of the organization. In her role with the Parker Center, Beth helps identify new opportunities for the Center to advocate, provide education and resources and build community about abundant aging. Beth oversees UCH’s educational affiliations, chaplaincy program, the Clinical Pastoral Education program and development of key relationships with denominational and ecumenical partners. Her role helps integrate strategic thinking in the areas of gerontology, ethics, church relations, higher education, senior living and ministry.
MOTIVATED FOR CHANGE
Beth strongly believes the lack of community is a major challenge for older adults today and intentionally engaging in communities as we age is crucial. Beth believes that aging is not a solo sport, and that spirituality and a sense of purpose are crucial to aging well. She advocates for a broader conversation about the role of spirituality in aging, not just in preparing for death, but in continually growing and reflecting on life’s meaning and the divine. Overall, her work aims to create a more holistic and abundant approach to aging that emphasizes community, diversity and spirituality.
Beth’s life-long dedication to ministry has not gone unnoticed, as she was honored as the United Theological Seminary Distinguished Alum for 2023. She credits her time at UTS to shaping how she thinks about complex issues, with the word “integrate” being a key element that continues to guide her work.
Today Beth remains resolute in her mission. Her legacy serves as a testament to the transformative power of ministry and the immeasurable impact one person can have on the lives of many.
In a world that so often overlooks the beauty and wisdom of our older generation, Beth stands as a living testament to the infinite value they possess. Through her tireless ministry, she paints vibrant strokes upon the canvas of their lives, reminding us all of the deep reservoir of compassion and community that resides within each of us, waiting to be ignited and shared.