Stability

Yesterday was "Older Adult Sunday" at our church.


We recognized those people who had been members of the church for 50 years or longer.

There were 28 people on the "Golden Members" list, including one who had been a member of the church for 76 years.

This is all the more remarkable when you consider that the Greater LA Metro Area isn't exactly the kind of place where I think of many people putting down roots.

The indigenous population of this region has long since been decimated by European disease. The long history of the connection between a people and this bit of real estate has been all but obliterated.

The existing settlement of this location, in contrast, is of remarkably late origin. Although the mission that served this area dates back to 1782, Our Fair City wasn't founded until 1903. The 76-year member of my church is, I believe, a son or grandson of one of the founding families. So even the longest-established heritages in the community go back a mere century.

And most of us, of course, have been around for a much shorter time than that. The mythos of California is that it is the place that you go to when you run away from home. From Forty-Niners seeking their fortune in the gold rush to Okies fleeing dust bowl poverty to would-be starlets chasing fame and fortune, California in general and the Los Angeles region in particular has beckoned aspirants to an new and better life.

But if California is the place you go to when you run away from home, how can it also be home? Generations of Americans have come to California to reinvent themselves. And then, as their children grow up, they do so with a normative narrative of adulthood as a time when it is appropriate and necessary to run away from home (not the least because they can't afford housing in their hometowns). Even more so than other parts of our highly-mobile society, this seems like the kind of place that one passes through, not the kind of of place where one settles down.

And indeed, most of the Golden Members of my church have children and grandchildren scattered around the country, if not the world. And yet, here they are -- 50 years, and more, in one place.

And not just in one place, but in one church -- outlasting trends in church music, shifts in ecclesiastical policy, and several pastors. This is their church, and they remain loyal to it.

Only God knows what the future holds for this congregation, where all too often we whisper worries about the ever-increasing average age of our worshipers (ever Sunday is "Older Adult Sunday," to be frank). But I can't help thinking it is some kind of miracle to have 28 people in one small church who have stuck it out, through thick and thin, for 50 years or more, and I have faith that that faithfulness will be rewarded, both in the lives of the individuals and of the church that they love.

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