Ministry to the “Living Saints”: Older Adult Ministry Certificate

Ministry to the “Living Saints”: Older Adult Ministry Certificate

April 27, 2017—As the Older Adult Ministry (OAM) Certificate program, a partnership with POAMN (Presbyterian Older Adult Ministries Network) enters its third year, we are celebrating the accomplishments of three who have recently completed the program and received their Certificate in Older Adult Ministry.

Ms. Pepe Bowman is a member of Fayette Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, GA, where she serves as a Ruling Elder. A retired nurse, Bowman’s final project, “Planning for Peace: Facing the Inevitable,” focused on end-of-life planning. She created a three lesson plans exploring theological and spiritual implications of forgiveness and loss, the creation of a faith statement and practical matters such as helpful legal documents to have updated and in place before illness and death occur. Bowman is particularly interested in encouraging families to begin conversations about death and dying before a critical situation occurs.

The Rev. Lynne Trout recently retired from congregational ministry and became active as a volunteer in another congregation. She completed the requirements for the Older Adult Ministry Certificate in December, 2016. Her final project, “Growing a Church Through Older Adult Ministry,” created three learning opportunities for older adults in the community served by Covenant Presbyterian Church in Cinnaninson, NJ: Hymn Conversations, a Senior Bible Study, and Senior Wellness Programs. The wellness program was attended by many people not affiliated with the congregation, who indicated interest in attending other programs they may host.

The Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy recently ended her first call at Chestnut Street Presbyterian in Wilmington, NC and is now associate pastor at Westminster Presbyterian in Alexandria, VA. Her Capstone Project, “Facing Our Own Mortality: Practical, Legal, and Theological Conversations and Resources to Prepare for Death,” was a forum held in honor of Dr. Carol E. Malloy, a member of Chestnut Street who died soon after Fauntleroy began her call. Following the death of four other members in quick succession, Fauntleroy was led to the OAM Certificate Program to better equip herself for ministry among an aging congregation. Local experts – a funeral home director, hospice chaplains and an elder law attorney – addressed the topics of the funeral, legal concerns, medical concerns and grief support. Rev. Fauntleroy led the group in a discussion of theological concerns related to death and dying and conducted opening and closing devotionals.

“Pepe and Lynne began the OAM Certificate program before the seminary partnered with POAMN to offer the program,” reports Sarah Erickson, director of lifelong learning at Columbia Theological Seminary. “Whitney is the first participant who began the program during the first year of the partnership to complete the certificate, a significant milestone.” Erickson reports that there are 27 active participants in the program, about a dozen of whom have completed all but the Capstone Project.

As Trout and the other participants in the OAM Certificate program discover, the four core courses are designed to prepare individuals to more fully engage in older adult ministry in their faith community, community at large and within family networks.  The program addresses the physical, emotional, spiritual, cognitive, moral and social development of older adults, how to develop a theological and biblical framework that fosters the care for and well-being of older adults, to become familiar with community and other resources related to older adults and to enable their congregations to develop more effective ministries among older adults in their midst.

Ms. Pat Baker, the OAM Coordinator from the POAMN, is excited about the future of the program. Baker, who serves as Health & Human Services Division Director for Gwinnett County, GA, reflected recently that “I witness the important role that congregations and other faith-based groups can play in providing support for older adults, and I’m hopeful that participants in the Certificate program will help grow these networks in their home communities.”

Older adult ministry is receiving more attention as congregations age.  The January/February issue of Presbyterian Outlook, which focused on Spiritual Practices for all stages of Life, included an article by Certificate Graduate Desiree Youngblood. You can read it HERE.

For more information on the OAM Certificate program, click HERE.  

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