As director of Intergenerational Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, and a staff member of Congregational Life Ministries, Debbie Eisenbise’s task is to encourage caring ministries in Church of the Brethren congregations. These ministries carry on the legacy of the former Association of Brethren Caregivers, encouraging the inclusion of persons of all abilities, working to prevent and address abuse, calling out the gifts of each generation, and fostering positive views on aging.
Within this portfolio falls coordination of the biennial National Older Adult Conference (NOAC). While this is a conference for “older adults” over age 50, it also is an intergenerational conference.
“Right now, there are three generations that are over age 50,” Eisenbise notes, “and often adult children in their 50s and 60s are bringing their parents in their 80s and 90s to NOAC. We also see district and congregational women’s groups and adult fellowship groups that include various generations. For the past few NOACs, young adult volunteers have been an integral part of the event, which encourages more intergenerational interaction and sharing.”
NOAC inspiration is carried back to districts and congregations not only through personal testimonies, but also through media resources on DVD and online. These recordings of sermons, Bible studies, and plenary sessions are used in many congregations as resources for adult Christian education and for worship.
Because so many NOAC participants have reflected on the importance of inspiration, the 14th NOAC is being billed as “Inspiration 2017” with the theme “Generations” (Psalm 145:4). Dates are Sept. 4-8, 2017, at Lake Junaluska (N.C.) Conference and Retreat Center.
Brethren leaders include Stephen Breck Reid, who will lead the daily Bible studies; Peggy Reiff Miller, who will speak about her work to document Heifer Project’s seagoing cowboys; and storyteller Jonathan Hunter. In addition to speakers, workshops, and creative arts offerings, the setting in the mountains of western North Carolina offers opportunities for bus tours, hikes, garden walks, boat rides on the lake, and other recreation. Registration will open in February 2017.
A four-minute video about Inspiration 2017 is online at www.brethren.org/noac, designed as a moment for mission to share in worship or with small groups. In addition to NOAC and Older Adult Month each May, other opportunities exist to draw on the wisdom of church elders to enhance congregational vitality. Find resources at www.brethren.org/ oam/older-adult-resources.html.
This article originallly appeared in the October 2016 issue of Messenger.