Remembering God’s call at the Friendship Cafe
On any Monday over at the SCOPE Building on Griffin Boulevard, a group of senior citizens will gather in the morning. They will grab a cup of coffee, have a seat and talk with each other to get caught up in what’s been happening to each other since they last met.
The seniors will then have a brief worship service. They distribute hymnbooks, but they aren’t needed. These veterans of many a church worship service and prayer meeting know the words of just about every tune by heart, and they belt them out with gusto. Sometimes one of them will get up and recite something — in one case, a long poem that went on for about five minutes, telling the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. She didn’t pause at all; it was part of her own life story and the life stories of everyone in the room.
As the hymnbooks are put away the group congregates to the other part of the room for low-impact exercises. They kid each other about missteps, but there is a camaraderie that comes with working out together.
After the stretch bands and weights are put away the group meets again, sharing stories before a nutritious meal is served. The fellowship continues throughout mealtime, and then they head home, ready to take on another week.
This group is the Friendship Café, sponsored by Piedmont Senior Resources. There are other Friendship Cafes in Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg and Nottoway Counties. They all serve our oldest citizens, giving them a meal and a time of fellowship. They remind some of the most vulnerable citizens in our area that they are very important.
They need that, because in spite of the fact that our older population is growing seven times that of the general population, they can be easy to ignore. Many of us who are in that category don’t like to claim it. “I’m not old,” we say, discounting the chronological truth of our years. We have a lot of negative stereotypes about being old; and then there are all the illnesses that come with being older, especially dementia or Alzheimer’s which we all want to avoid. People get tired of hearing the same story over and over again from older folks, and it can be hard to keep one’s patience in dealing with those who are advanced in years.
And yet that is God’s call to us.
In the 71st Psalm it says: “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent.” The psalmist is talking to God, of course. But they could just as easily be talking to any one of us.
God does not forget us when we are old. But sometimes we forget each other. The Friendship Café is a wonderful way to remember our older friends and to assure them that they are important. It serves as a reminder to cherish our older friends and hear their stories one more time.
For in their stories is God’s story for all of us.
REV. DR. TOM ROBINSON is pastor of Farmville Presbyterian Church. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.