Bowman Preaches a Legacy Joining Old and New Voices in Unity

NOAC 2009
National Older Adult Conference of the Church of the Brethren

Lake Junaluska, N.C. — Sept. 7-11, 2009

Sept. 7, 2009
Christopher Bowman, pastor of Oakton Church of the Brethren and a former moderator of the Annual Conference, brought the message for the opening worship service at the 2009 National Older Adult Conference. For more photos of worship at NOAC, click here.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Preacher: Christopher Bowman, pastor of Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va.

It’s hard to imagine that the scripture text for Monday evening’s worship service was anyone’s favorite. NOAC 2009 officially opened with names like Zerubbabel, Shealtiel, Jozadak, Kadmiel, Binnui and Hodaviah.

But even in this passage about the laying of the foundation of the second temple, there was a legacy of wisdom waiting to be woven into the lives of the hearers.

Within moments, Bowman had his congregation laughing, as he reminded his hearers that the only ones who were not part of the overwhelming praise that accompanied the glorious day were the old folks who still remembered the old Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians a couple generations before.

We lose an essential gift from God when we overlook any segment of our population, Bowman pointed out. He asked, “What do those old folks know that we young folks don’t? … Sometimes the new world rests on old pain,” he noted.

“It’s what old folks do when you lay the foundation for a temple. You start crying.” He called to mind his struggle to order the exactly correct window envelopes for offering at his church, 2,500 of them, because the old ones ran out. Thinking the treasurer would be overjoyed that he’d gotten the task done right, a different reply came: “I found an old box of them years ago and I’ve been trying to get rid of them ever since.”

Oe perhaps the old people were crying because they remembered their parents and grandparents, long gone, who had taken them to the first temple. “Sometimes we cry for the people who are not with us,” the preacher noted.

However, Bowman continued, “I suspect whenever God does something new, some old fashioned sadness comes with it.”

The good news comes in the last verse, when the sounds of the voices are blended together, Bowman told the NOAC congregation. “The good news is not in the crying, but neither is it in the celebrating. It’s in the last verse”–in which no one could distinguish the sounds of the joy from the sound of the weeping, he said. “The voices of the old folks and the voices of the young folks were indistinguishable.”

He went on to say this situation around the building of the new temple was not about winning. Neither side drowned out the other. “The two distinct passions joined in one distinguished praise,” he said. “When the voices of the young and the voices of the old were united in one sound the temple was born. …We need each other.”

Bowman’s sermon was a part of a vibrant opening worship service for the conference that included the telling of stories about wisdom and legacy, shared by a number of participants who wove pieces of ribbon and strips of fabric into a large loom that stood on the stage throughout the worship. NOAC participants were invited to each add a piece to the weaving throughout the week.

Also part of the worship service was the debut of a new NOAC theme song written by Jonathan Shively. Wil Nolen led the congregational singing and directed the NOAC choir. Bonnie Kline Smeltzer served as worship leader.

— Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. 

The News Team for the 2009 National Older Adult Conference is led by Eddie Edmonds, and includes Alice Edmonds, Frank Ramirez, Perry McCabe, and staff Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, who serves as director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Contact

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