Aging: Growing Old in the Church
William H. Willimon, professor of the practice of Christian ministry at Duke Divinity School and retired United Methodist Church bishop, has written a new book offering a biblically based, theological, and pastoral assessment of the challenges of aging.
The new book, Aging: Growing Old in the Church, is being published by Baker Academic in April and is part of the Pastoring for Life: Theological Wisdom for Ministering Well series. Willimon is a seasoned pastor of more than 40 years, church leader, and theologian who has written numerous books for working pastors and seminarians.
Drawing on Scripture, literature, current research, and his experiences as an aging adult, Willimon reflects on aging as a spiritual journey. He explores the challenging realties as well as the rewarding joys of growing old, and shows pastors how to help their congregants grow old gracefully and in good Christian hope.
In Aging: Growing Old in the Church, Willimon also offers practical advice on helping church members as they encounter retirement, aging, caring for the aging, loss, bereavement, and finding faith in the last quarter of life. This Christian perspective on aging will be of interest not only to pastors but also chaplains and other ministers in hospitals, hospices, and extended care facilities.
“Although there are few explicit resources in Scripture for aging, the Christian faith has the capacity to find fresh meaning in the last decades of our life cycle,” Willimon says. “After interviews and visits in dozens of congregations for whom ministry with the aging is a major part of their mission, I believe that Christians can prepare for the predictable crises of aging and that congregational leaders can be key to that preparation.”
A septuagenarian, Willimon argues that not only as a pastor, bishop, author, and theological educator but also as someone with personal experience of elderhood that he and other Baby Boomer Christians are pioneering fresh ways of aging.
“Will Willimon has written many wise books, but this may be his wisest,” says Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. “He gently teaches us how growing old in faith is so dramatically different from simply growing old. He shows how aging calls us to relinquish our grip on some tasks and roles, to strengthen our grasp on abiding treasures, and to open our arms to new blessings we are being given. For those of us at the end of our days, this is more than a book; it's a companion along the way.”
Other recent books by Willimon are Stories by Willimon (Abingdon Press) and Leading with the Sermon: Preaching as Leadership (Fortress Press), both published this year. His memoir, Accidental Preacher, was published in 2019. He also writes Pulpit Resource, a weekly preaching subscription service used by thousands in several countries. Prior to his current position, Willimon also served for 20 years as a faculty member at Duke Divinity School and as dean of Duke Chapel at Duke University.