I’ve been a member of my church for more than 50 years, and I’ve been married even longer. You know what? They're really not all that different. Like a marriage, it's easy to fall in love, but not so easy to stay in it. A relationship will challenge you and each of you will change, but the important thing is that you’re changing together. Like a healthy relationship, a healthy church takes work, but it's worth it.

Many years ago my church was one of the best attended in the city, let alone the country. Our church was so busy all week long that we were called the “Church of the Open Door.” I stayed there after the urban flight when I could count the members at services on both hands. We wanted to be the “Church of the Open Door” once again. We wanted God to breathe new life into us and help us see the future. Just because we were getting older, that didn’t mean our minds or our mission had to. Like the Preamble of the UCC Constitution says, we “affirm the responsibility of the Church on each generation to make faith its own reality of worship in honesty of thought and expression and in purity of heart before God.”

God answered our prayers. We found an innovative young pastor who was willing to take risks and, for a while, we breathed easier. But, like a marriage, once the honeymoon is over, reality kicks in. You have to work to keep what you want. Many of us had to let go of some of our old notions to make way for new people and new ideas.

As I reached my 80s, I had to see a new place for myself in a new world with new faces in the church I had grown up in. There was a time when there were almost no children or baptisms happening at my church. Like God giving Abraham and Sarah a child at 80, my church has given birth to a whole new generation of members. I now witness many baptisms. Each one reminds me of my own, and as long as I can, I intend to be here to see a few more.

Because of the covenant created at baptism, I knew I could speak my mind and ask questions when I needed to – something I really cherished as I got older. A lot of people talk down to people my age instead of talking with us. How is that any different from the way we talk down to a child or talk against people who are different? But I kept talking. And I kept growing, and living, and contributing. My church treats me with honor, and I honor my church. I still feel a sense of community and commitment to my church. I'm committed to keeping the door to my mind and my church open.

“I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” — Revelation 3: 8. My God is a creating God, and by God, I'm going to make sure my church remains creative. In the UCC, we tend to get there early so we’re always on time. Anyone who says you can’t teach an “old dog new tricks” must not be a member of UCC. Change is good, and I’m still as in love as I ever was.

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