During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of Epiphany Episcopal Church in Kaimuki served as a testament to faith and dedication as they continued to attend services in person — when we were allowed to do so. It renewed me as a minister each and every Sunday.
Even before the vaccine became available, some members of the congregation who were more vulnerable due to age or illness attended church — despite the risks. They simply put on their masks, safely sat six feet apart, washed their hands, then folded them to worship God together, following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now that the vaccine is widely available, all the members of the church have demonstrated their love for their community by getting vaccinated, protecting themselves while helping the islands combat the virus.
Many studies indicate that religious practices substantially contribute to physical and mental health. All I have to do is look at my members who are in the 70-to-90-year-old age range who have been coming to church regularly. One of our members who lived to be 103 years old came to worship nearly every Sunday. Some of our elder members have attended since they were children.
Many of those who have gone on to be with Jesus in Heaven lived full lives as elders. They knew that coming to a place of worship — going to a sacred place to worship and committing to something beyond themselves — builds a bridge into their personal lives. Worshiping God in fellowship with other members of the congregation and sharing the ups and downs of life helps give them the ability to deal with the stress in their daily lives. I have been a witness to countless stories that back up this observation.
These grey-haired elders are an example of what St. Paul the Apostle called “mature faith — understanding the wisdom of God.” They rediscovered a secret that many have forgotten: Having faith and being a part of a sacred place of worship is important to well-being.
“I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God,” St. Peter said. So to all the elders out there, keep tending the flock at your church. The Bible says, when elders gather, God’s wisdom becomes known. So I would like more elders to gather with me at Epiphany to share that wisdom. But churches are not just a gathering place for the senior citizens. Ultimately, the connection with God is strengthened through church attendance by people of all ages.