Not only do April showers bring May flowers — so does Senior Adult Day at First Baptist Church in Sylacauga. Hydrangeas, roses, daisies and tulips dotted the tables at a May 1 Senior Adult Day luncheon.
The first Sunday in May is recognized by churches throughout the Southern Baptist Convention as Senior Adult Day. The widely celebrated occasion honors senior adult church members, but First Baptist goes a step further. A Golden Nineties Celebration also takes place, giving special recognition to members 90 years of age and older.
It has become a beloved event, so much so that one member who recently remarried and moved to a different part of the state refuses to join another church until she can be inducted into the Golden Nineties Club next year.
“Queen for a Day”
The idea for the special recognition came from longtime church member Harriette Sawyer, who noticed a quiet 90-year-old who had worked in the children’s department for many years. She realized there were others who had “faithfully supported the church with their money and attendance.”
“They needed to be honored … to have lived 90 years and have given 50 years or more to the church,” Sawyer said. “So many have worked behind the scenes.”
She took it upon herself to establish the Golden Nineties Club as a “thank you” from the church family. Sawyer laughed when she spoke of one of the early inductees saying it made her feel like a “queen for a day.”
Sawyer started the club when the church was between pastors in 2006. She continued planning it by herself for a number of years until the senior adult committee began helping her.
Barbara Jones, committee chairman, said, “This is the first church I’ve ever seen anything like this done.”
Getting everyone involved
Jones decided to expand planning responsibilities to others within the congregation. Deacons were asked to deliver bud vases and Golden Nineties booklets to club members who were unable to attend. Deacons’ wives are in charge of decorations and youth serve as escorts and clean-up assistants.
The community gets involved too. Food is catered by a local restaurant and a balloon arch provides a backdrop for fun family photos.
Each Golden Nineties Club member is given a yellow rose corsage or boutonniere with golden ribbons upon arriving at the church.
This year the sermon preached by Rick Patrick, FBC senior pastor, highlighted the “Temptations of Senior Adults,” taken from research by Bob Russell from senior adults within his church in Louisville. The five greatest spiritual and attitudinal temptations he discovered were: worry, having a critical spirit, feelings of regret, inflexibility and spiritual retirement.
Service music was aptly geared toward seniors including a trumpet solo of “This Is My Story.” Old hymn favorites of “Heavenly Sunlight,” “Victory in Jesus” and “Amazing Grace” were sung by the congregation.
As part of the service, the pastor read a short biography of each Golden Nineties inductee. One new member, Martha Hammonds, jumped up with joy, throwing her hands in the air when her biography was read.
Each had a story describing roles within the church, years of service and mission work. Margaret O’Kelley had 60 continuous years of teaching Sunday School (1962–present) and participation in three international mission trips after the age of 70.
“What a privilege to be 91 years old and know that God can still use me and other 90-year-olds to show God’s love, wisdom, guidance, peace and joy wherever He places us,” reflected Wilda Jones, a new inductee.
Because of the pandemic, the celebration was postponed for two years, so 2022 featured 11 inductees, joining the existing eight.
Among the 2022 inductees was Gloria Boyett, Christine Cannon, Louie Cousins, Martha Hammonds, Bill James, Betty Jones, Wilda Jones, Betty Logan, Anna Moore, Margaret O’Kelley and Clara Stewart. Existing members are Navona Brinkley, Vivian Crosswy, Bill Gresham, Emma Polly Griffin, Martha Lovell, Charles Moore, Sylvia Thacker and Harriett Whalen. Two previous members remained in the club until 100 years of age.
Brinkley, 99, was the oldest in attendance.
Any church can put action to Psalm 71:9 to “not set aside” those in their old age. Part of FBC Sylacauga’s planning involves finding the names of any 90-year-olds within the membership; sending a letter to each one requesting a photo and short biography, including a description of early childhood, education, work/vocation, church work, hobbies and awards/honors; compiling the information in story form.
For more information and a planning guide, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call FBC Sylacauga at 256-245-6301.
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