My name is Ali McCollough, and I am an intern at Hayesville First United Methodist Church. I help with the liturgy on Sunday mornings, along with the adult choir and hand bell choir. If my class schedule permitted, I would still be working with the kids (Missionaires) as well.
There is something very different about this church than anywhere I have ever been before. Because my dad
is a pastor, I have been to many different churches and services, and I know that there is something incredibly unique about this congregation. Most churches are either filled with young people and thriving, or filled with old people and… well, you can guess the other half. This congregation is one of the greatest exceptions to the rule that I have ever had the opportunity to witness. From day one, it was clear that this generally older congregation had more life and zest than most other churches with a demographic half their age. The people are so overflowing with love that they cannot help but share it—not only with each other, but also in the community.
There are two services at the church each Sunday morning, the 8:30 and the 11:00. When I first found out that I would be doing the 8:30, I was a little less than thrilled. Getting up and functioning that early was not something that I had planned for on a Sunday morning. After going to the first service, I realized how special this group was and that I was going to be learning a lot from them over the duration of my internship. The thing that I particularly noticed about this first service and still notice every Sunday for the past two and a half years was that the acolytes were adults. Not even young adults but mostly adults over the age of 65.
Coming from a background where only children were acolytes, it didn’t occur to me that other people could participate in this form of worship. The acolyte is the person who helps with the service by carrying the light, and sometimes a cross, into the church. This is symbolic of carrying the light of Christ into the Church, and then out into the world. This is something that sounds universal, but children are typically assigned the task. While I understand why children would be the ones to carry the light of Christ in and out of the service, to me, it was so much more powerful when I saw these older adults doing it. They probably do it because there are not really children at the 8:30 service, but that’s not the point. The point is that they saw a need and filled it and that there isn’t an age limit on worshipping our Creator.
Recently, it feels like everything is geared towards young people in the Christian-faith. There are concerts, festivals, conferences, and telecasts—all created to attract the younger generation and get them ‘fired up’. While I am glad that we have so many opportunities for young people to join and be a part, being in this congregation has made me realize that there is not a whole lot for the people who have already raised a family.
First Timothy 4:12 says not to look down on anyone because they are young, but I think that too many times that we look down, or past, people who are older. We think that because their hair is graying or because they need a large-print Bible that this somehow handicaps them from being able to be the hands and feet of Christ. One of the most important things I have learned at this church is that your age does not matter. What matters is your heart. This congregation is so willing to be selfless and outreaching that it makes me want to grow deeper in my faith every day.