|A picture from the Centenary Party for our Women's Own in 2013|
Like many such gatherings in churches our Women's Own caters primarily for 'senior' ladies. Indeed many similar groups in neighbouring churches have now closed because older ladies can no longer attend and younger ones are busy elsewhere.
However, there was a good crowd yesterday afternoon and everyone seemed in fine form - well they laughed at my jokes - which was nice of them.
It was fascinating to see the dynamics of this group in action: the friendly way these twenty five ladies greeted each other when entering the room, the gentle and encouraging conversations that were had, the love of singing old hymns and the willingness to try some written in the 1980's! There was an almost tangible sense of companionship and support with lots of laughter thrown in.
At the end I was struck by just how many from the group came up and thanked me for the talk.
As they left the leader of our Women's Own turned to me and said 'these ladies are like family to me'. I knew exactly what she meant and I feel it's partly her wonderful pastoral care that has kept the group strong for so long.
It's easy, among ministers of my generation to be a bit despondent when it comes to ministry with the elderly. It's youth work or outreach to young families that grabs the headlines and wins the cheers of others. Yet I sense that is an out of balance perspective.
With a growing demographic - certainly in churches if not in society itself - weighted towards the elderly it would be foolish for us to dismiss their needs and think of work among them as 'second best'.
It's for that reason that in just a few weeks our church is having an Elders' Training Day on this very subject of how we might positively and optimistically view and value our ministry in a church where the majority of the congregation are predominantly beyond retirement age.
If my experience of a lively and supportive Women's Own yesterday was anything to go by that should be something we do enthusiastically.