Celebration of Ageing & Faith 2011

Celebration of Ageing and Faith 2011


In the autumn of 2011 Mayfield Salisbury organised a Celebration of Ageing and Faith. Advised by some of our older members, a programme was drawn up through which we could explore the theme of well-being as we age. We also consulted Faith in Older People (FiOP), an organisation which works to realize the spiritual care of older people by providing training courses, mentoring, events and publications for churches, care homes, health care staff and individuals.  FiOP defines spiritual care as ‘developing an understanding of what gives meaning to people’s lives’.

Thus the autumn of 2011 became a special time at Mayfield Salisbury: a time full of fun, celebration and worship, with a whole series of inter-related events. Some of these events encouraged physical activity, some learning new skills, some were cross-generational, some centred specifically on spiritual growth, all involved fellowship.


parasols.JPGIt began on a sunny afternoon in late August, when, with a piper playing, ‘Pimms’ to hand, parasols and panamas aloft, more than 50 older members, their friends Group_10.jpgand relations, met for the opening Garden Party. As each new arrival came out on to the steps of the hall and surveyed the colourful scene of gazebos and balloons below, the delight increased: old friends were re-united, new friends were made. In the hall itself the tables were set for afternoon tea, complete with posies of flowers, tiny sandwiches and delicious home made cakes. All was conviviality and conversation as news was exchanged and memories shared.  As one guest said ‘It was a real party, all we had to do was come: a proper guest, no payment and no responsibility!’


IMG_5639.JPGAnother event was the Conference organised by the Kirk Session and held on October 1, Older Peoples’ Day. Here we were privileged to hear two leading academics in the field. First, John Starr, Professor of Ageing andIMG_5641.JPG Health at the University of Edinburgh and Consultant in Geriatric Medicine with NHS Lothian provided an engaging overview of ageing and health today, and referred to two very relevant studies of the church-going practice of people born in 1921 and 1936.  Then, with the scene set, Dr Harriet Mowat, a previous deputy director of the Centre for Gerontology and Health Studies at Paisley University, unpacked some of the current research and helped us to look at the implications for us as a church: as  Kirk Session, congregation and community, and the practical responses we might make.  After a break for coffee and chat, in a second session the spiritual dimension was addressed, particularly how to explore spiritual needs and achieve balanced lives as we age. As expected, a lengthy list of ideas and proposals emerged from the final plenary feedback which our Research Committee later reviewed and included in its strategic planning. One of the outcomes has been the production of a CD of favourite hymns sung by our choir which we have made available for use at services of worship in, for example, care homes. Details of this can be found here.


What of the other events? Here are a few examples: the Joint Bulb Planting with some of our youngest and oldest worshippers, who then waited anxiously until the spring and the display of tulips; the Technology Evening when older members met with ‘20-somethings’ for a bit of mobile phone practice and know-how; the IMG_5920.JPGTea Dance complete with waltzing couples, delicious cakes, and many memories of youthful outings to the city’s once thriving dance halls!  Exercise and reminiscences were again the order of the day on the morning we met for Street Games & Rhymes. So what did you call ‘paldies’ where you grew up? And were there really that many versions of ‘In and out the dusty bluebells’? The talk was all of ‘jeelie babbies’, and ‘jammy dodgers’, ‘waggon wheels’ and’ sweetie ciggies’, and meeting round the back of the Kirk for a quiet puff!


Interspersed with these more vigorous activities were gentler moments such as the morning gathering to IMG_5652_1.JPGwhich all brought a piece of Craft Work that had languished unfinished in a drawer for far too long! Sitting knitting or stitching is a wonderful excuse for a chat, and this group has in fact become a regular feature. Now calling itself Craft Moments, it meets on Thursdays, fortnightly.  But IMG_1909.JPGthere was nothing quiet about the evening of Supper and Song with George Ross, ably supported by Susan Wooding on the piano, when people gathered in the upper hall for a delicious supoper followed by a sing-song.


There were also several memorable worship occasions.  Very special was the Afternoon Service when the upper hall was packed to capacity with more than 60 sitting at the tables. It was led by our minister, Revd. Scott McKenna, favourite hymns were accompanied by Dr John Willmett on the piano and the address was given by the priest and writer, Fr. Gerry Hughes SJ: an address full of gentle humour. For Gerard Hughes_6099r.jpgexample, on asking a centenarian what advantages were there in living to be very old, Gerry Hughes received the reply ‘I am no longer subject to peer pressure’!  Afterwards the tea and cakes were much appreciated, as was the chance to have a chat with old friends and acquaintances by those who do not always manage to leave their homes very often.


Sunday servcies were special too. On Sunday, September 25, our guest was Revd. Ali Newell, a Church of Scotland Minister who works at the Ignatius Centre of Spirituality in Glasgow. Her theme was ‘Keeping the Spirit Alive’ which centred on how, as a church and as a society, we can work towards valuing older people more fully, especially those who have entered that ‘fourth age’ when physical or mental disability may require special understanding and love.


On Sunday, October 2,  we welcomed Mary Moffett, the training coordinator for Faith in Older People (FiOP) and support worker with elderly people at St Cuthbert’s, Colinton, who, drawing our attention to the work of Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche Communities, spoke about how older people, especially those who may no longer be able to participate fully in church life, are indispensible to the body of the Church. Her sermon can be listened to here.


Then on Sunday 30 October, All Saints Sunday, our minister, Revd Scott McKenna, brought our Celebration to a close. To quote a few of his closing lines: ‘Our Celebration of Ageing and Faith has been particularly important because it has been counter-cultural. Our culture idolizes youth, youthful beauty, physical activity and action, while spiritual growth and maturity, at least in many cases, belong to the third and fourth age. The Sunday for All Saints is perhaps the ideal Sunday on which to close.'


As the introduction to the programme for all these events put it: ‘Because we are church with old people in our midst we are a church rich in experience, faith and lifetimes of service, and we want to acknowledge that and celebrate the wisdom, talents, knowledge, energy and vitality of our older members’. Our aim was thus to share, across the generations, thoughts and ideas about meaning and purpose in our lives, work towards a better understanding of why faith matters, and that the need to develop spirituality is not something that stops as we get older. From the many expressions of thanks and praise voiced, this aim was amply fulfilled.

Contact Information

Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church,
18 West Mayfield,

0131 667 1522 / 0780 801 1234

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Scottish Charity Number: SC000785


  • Because God is both knowable and unknowable the tension of the symbol, the multilayers of the myth and the openness of the poetic are all vital to our desire to celebrate the Mystery to whom we relate and in whom we have our being.
    Mark Oakley

  • You must love him as he is: neither God, nor spirit, nor image; even more, the One without commingling, pure, luminous ...

    Meister Eckhart

  • The purpose of our life is God's glory. However lowly a life is, that is what makes it great.
    Oscar Romero

  • Faith may justify bigotry or fanaticism, as Church history tragically witnesses. It needs a safeguard. If it is not animated as it were by the greatest of the theological virtues (love), faith can become defective.
    Thomas Norris

  • Dry not, dry not, your tears of love eternal! Only to eyes that fail to weep does this world seem so dull and dead. Dry not, dry not, those long, sad tears of love.
    Johann von Goette

  • The post modern paradigm manifests itself as a unity which preserves diversity and diversity which strives after unity.
    David Bosch

  • There is only one assertion that requires no evidence. Children are a sacred trust...Unless we care properly for our children, we shall never build a better world.
    'A Good Childhood’ The Children’s Society

  • These are only hints and guesses, hints followed by guesses; and the rest is prayer.
    'The Dry Salvages' T.S.Eliot

  • According to strict truth, God is incomprehensible, and incapable of being measured.

  • Myth is a story about the way things never were, but always are.
    Thomas Mann

  • In the darkness ...The child of your love - and now become as the most hated one - the one You have thrown away as unwanted - unloved ..... The darkness is so dark .... I have no faith.
    Mother Teresa

  • I love the Bible. I owe my faith and my life to the Bible and its liberating message. It is in the Bible that I first met Jesus ... I too am included in God's embrace.
    Gene Robinson

  • It is this great absence that is like a presence, that compels me to address it without hope of a reply ....
    R.S. Thomas

  • Faith is not a proud self-consistent philosophy. It involves maintaining oneself between contradictions that can't be solved by analysis. It is therefore a living response to the grace of God as revealed in fragile lives.
    Mark Oakley

  • Any religion which does not say that God is hidden is not true.
    Blaise Pascal

  • The contemporary Church is losing aspects of its wide and generous memory and therefore condemning itself to become a 'swimming pool Church' - one that has all the noise coming from the shallow end.
    Mark Oakley

  • For all your doctrinal headaches take Paradox.
    Mark Oakley

  • The true vision and the true knowledge of what we seek consists precisely in not seeing, in an awareness that our goal transcends all knowledge and is everywhere cut off from us by the darkness of incomprehensibility.
    St Gregory of Nyssa

  • Death, death be hanged, the Lord has promised me that I shall live. This I believe!
    Martin Luther

  • We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life have not been put to rest.

  • Religion is the flight of the alone to the Alone.

  • Stupid clergymen appeal quite directly to a Bible passage directly understood ....
    Soren Kirkegaard

  • What is the point of the arts of reading and criticism as long as the ecclesiastical interpretation of the Bible, Protestant as well as Catholic, is cultivated as ever?
    Friedrich Nietzsche

  • A figure like Ecclesiast, rugged and luminous, chants in the dark a text that is the answer, although obscure.
    Wallace Stevens

  • Myth is the poetry of the soul.
    Sara Maitland

  • Our loss of the ability to think mythically, poetically, allegorically, creatively, theologically, and artfully is a greater threat to our religious experience than anything good scientists have to report ...
    Sara Maitland

  • In general, Zen attitude is that words and truth are incompatible, or at least that no words can capture truth.
    Douglas Hofstadter

  • 'God' is a one word poem
    Rowan Williams

  • What is today? Today is eternity.
    Meister Eckhart

  • Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things.
    Meister Eckhart

  • The most powerful hunger we have, mostly suppressed and misdirected, is the hunger for God.
    Miroslav Volf

  • We frequently judge that things are as we wish them to be, for through personal feeling true perspective is easily lost.
    Thomas a Kempis

  • Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.
    Rabindranath Tagore

  • God is the beyond in our midst.
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • 'God is not the answer, God is the question.'
    Herbert McCabe