In just a couple of days, I will turn 50. Instead of ignoring this reality or trying to find some way of moving into it quietly, I’ve decided to do the best I can to embrace this milestone moment in my life. I’ll gather with some friends next weekend. I’ve ordered a few balloons that have an exclamation point after 50—instead of the ones that that say something like “Oh No, the Big 5-0!”
It’s a lot easier to be positive about turning 50 when I keep in mind my context. I live in the oldest state in the country. I’m actually still younger than the median age of the small city where the church I serve is located. In Hallowell, Maine, the median age, as calculated from the 2010 census, is 50.5. I have a whole six months to still be on the younger side of the median age. Hoorah!
Then, there’s my work environment. At Old South, I can literally count on one hand the number of people who attend worship on a regular basis who are younger than I am—not counting the people who are brought to church by their parents. While the median age of Hallowell might be 50.5, the median age of the Old South Church community is significantly older than that. And, beyond that, I continue to be the youngest UCC pastor serving a UCC church in our association of churches—and it’s about a decade that separates me from the next youngest pastor.
I’m turning 50 in a place where it’s relatively easy to turn 50.
So, while my context allows me to feel better about turning 50, I can’t help but wonder about what this really means for my work life, for the church I serve, and for the future.
Maine is the oldest state in the country, and at least by one survey, the most secular. As I’ve written about in the past, the secular nature of this part of the world makes the life of the church tremendously complicated. It is no simple or easy task to think, or believe, that we can turn the tide.
In my self-centered focus on my birthday, I also wonder about whether or not I will be able to do what I do and be compensated for it until I’m ready to retire—without moving away. I’ve been concerned about this trend for a while now, but I wasn’t quite expecting to feel like it’s an accelerating trend. But that’s how it’s beginning to feel.
This might be a good place to turn 50, but it’s not exactly a great place to be a professional clergyperson. So, as I turn 50, I will celebrate, but I suspect it won’t be too long before I find myself a little more reflective and even troubled. For today, though, I’ll take that command to not be afraid and celebrate the blessings of life, including life’s perplexing challenges.