Spirituality and Aging: How Worship communities of Older Adults Sustain Their Faith in the Absence of Traditional Ordained Leadership
This thesis considers the ways that older Anglican Christians (greater than 70 years of age) exercise worship in an environment of shared ministry, rather than in one that is led by traditional ordained stipended clergy. It explores the ways that such groups of Christians nurture and draw on their spirit-given gifts to sustain their faith, in the context of ministry of and by all the baptized. Specific attention is given to the model of worship established within the Auckland Diocese of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Polynesia (Auckland Diocese) known as Local Shared Ministry Units (LSMU). Interviews with individual members of four LSMUs were carried out, with the resulting comments treated as a collective case study. This methodological approach works well where there are a number of cases (LSMU) and selected units of analysis within each case (worshippers in the ol der adult category). The interview data was then analysed using Grounded Theory as the data analysis approach. The findings from the analysed data indicate that these older adults are still seeking faith formation, generally do not regard themselves as fully formed spiritually, and are using personal prayer in particular to enhance and nourish their faith growth. Also, their present worship environment of the LSMU model plays a large and positive part in their spiritual wellbeing. They feel valued not just as members of their congregations, but as active participants in their own worship activities and thus faith journeys. Enabling people to exercise Christian ministries in their own church environment, in ways that enhance their faith, allowing individual skills and gifts to be developed and used, was regarded by all the respondents in this research as highly valuable. They consistently affirmed how this environment (the LSMU model) enhanced both their personal faith and the overall quality of their worship. However, the challenge to church leadership for supporting this desired worship environment may not entirely be in the power of the worshippers. It may in fact be how the structure which currently affirms a seminary-trained clergy, supporting a vicar-led church model, following fairly strictly determined liturgical protocols can adapt to a genuine empowerment of the worshippers themselves to direct and manage their own worship activities. Therefore, given the increasing numbers of older adults in both the general population and desirably in worship populations, there is a need for church leadership to acknowledge and take note of this phenomenon, in the way strategies are developed to provide satisfactory worship environments in the 21st Century for a growing number of potential worshippers in this older adult group.
Advisor: Baab, Lynne
Degree Name: Master of Theology
Degree Discipline: Theology and Religion
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Aging; ; faith; worship environments; Spirituality and Aging; older adult; shared ministry
Research Type: Thesis