Wisdom Conversations: Clergy, Lay Leaders Combat Ageism in Retreat Day

Beth Long-Higgins with McFaddens: Rev. Beth Long-Higgins (center), executive director of the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging, greets Wisdom Conversations facilitators John (left) and Susan McFadden on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018 at Dublin Community United Church of Christ.

DUBLIN, Ohio (January 11, 2018) – Central Ohio clergy and lay people participated in the first Wisdom Conversations event sponsored by United Church Homes’ Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging on Jan. 8 at Dublin Community United Church of Christ.

The topic, “Aging and Opportunity for Congregations and Ourselves,” included an interdisciplinary discussion featuring facilitators Susan H. McFadden, Ph.D., and John T. McFadden, M.Div., of Wisconsin.

Susan McFadden is professor emerita of psychology at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. She retired from the university in 2012 and now volunteers in many capacities for the Fox Valley Memory Project, which aims to create a dementia-friendly community in northeast Wisconsin.

Her husband, John, is an ordained minister in the UCC who served in parish ministry for 34 years. He currently serves as memory care chaplain at The Bridges of Appleton and Valley VNA Senior Services (Neenah).

The McFaddens’ book, “Aging Together: Dementia, Friendship, and Flourishing Communities,” published by Johns Hopkins University Press, was released in paperback in 2014. Susan and John volunteer at one memory café gathering each month and provide leadership and support for other programs of the Fox Valley Memory Project.

Rev. Patricia from GW and HP: Rev. Patricia Vargas-Standish, chaplain at United Church Homes’ Glenwood Community and Harmar Place in Marietta, Ohio, studies a hymnal during the first Wisdom Conversations retreat day sponsored by the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging.

The retreat day was designed for clergy and lay leaders to reflect on the significance of aging and the passage of time, both for their own journeys and their congregations. Offered in the season of Epiphany and in the footsteps of the sages, the event aimed to provide an opportunity for attendees to catch their breath as the new year began and imagine the opportunities for themselves and their congregations in 2018.

The retreat began with a review of Matthew 2:1-12, which describes the journey of wise men to Bethlehem to find the Christ child and offer their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The familiar Bible story was an opportunity for attendees to reflect on the definition of “wisdom” and how it relates to aging Christian congregations and clergy.

Americans are living longer today than they were 30 years ago, and attendees of the retreat reflected on how they and others are preparing for this extension of their lives. They answered questions such as, “What does an increased life span mean for your churches, communities and for society as a whole?”

As part of United Church Homes’ efforts to combat ageism, much of the day was spent reflecting on how to overcome negative stereotypes about aging in America and how congregations can better value the talents and contributions of older members.