A celebration indeed!

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Our fifth annual 'In Celebration of Age' service took place here in Church, on Sunday afternoon July 19.

A congregation of more than 70 people, many of whom who do not normally attend church, explored this year's theme: 'Living with Confidence, Living with Faith.'

Debbie Thrower our first Anna Chaplain, conducted the service. She interviewed three men and women in their 80s, 90s and 100s. Mary Sugden, for example, described her faith as affecting every aspect of her life, including her finances.
Arthur Harvey spoke of inviting Jesus into his heart at the age of nine, and Bob Weighton, 107, described his life-long faith in terms of Martin Luther's famous quote from 1521: "Here I stand; I can do no other."

There were Bible readings, traditional and newer hymns and special prayers said for older people in the town and surrounding villages and their carers.

The service also featured a reading from Karen Booker, our pastoral assistant, of an excerpt from author Ronald Blythe's speech to the Oldie magazine's Literary Lunch last year.

Ronald Blythe, who is 92, is a licensed lay minister (Reader) in Suffolk, and writes a regular column for the back page of the Church Times. "I have no recipe for living a long life," said Ronald Blythe, "I just think it is a normal thing to do — to garden, to have friends, to celebrate good health, to travel, to read (particularly valuable), not to watch too much television. And to be grateful for what, for our ancestors, would have been a very unusual thing — to live into old age."

Our other Anna Chaplains, Helen Jesty and Jonathan Rooke, read out 'Words of Wisdom' collected from many of the people they had visited, which had been written on to paper hearts. These were then put up on a hanging frame for all to read.

Keith told those gathered, "Always remember Anna Chaplaincy started here in Alton!"

During his interview with Debbie, Bob Weighton shared this poem that he had written in the early 1980's

The argument against love

If you do not want to suffer, do not love!
Love neither friends nor family,
For they can be taken from you.
They can cause disappointment, frustration and pain,
They can reject your love and leave you desolate.
What they say to you can hurt,
More than if it were said by a stranger.
For if you do not care,
The barbed words fall to the ground.

Love not the world:
The brightness of the sun, for the night falls;
The colour of flowers, for they wither and fade;
The sound of music, for the song comes to an end.

Love not life overmuch, for youth and strength depart,
Love not the high moments of pleasure or delight,
For they can be followed by the stale dry crusts of time,
Cherish no dreams, for they may never be realised,
Strive for no goals, as they may ever remain out of reach,
Attempt nothing and fail in nothing.

Trust no one, venture your life for no one, not any cause.
Give your heart to no-one and in so doing,
Much pain will pass you by.

But what will you have left to remember?
And oh! What you will have missed!

(Bob Weighton, 1983).

The service finished with a blessing, the words of which were taken from a hymn that Arthur Harvey had specially written and composed, "To Comfort and Encourage Older Pilgrims."

Be glad and be thankful for all that you can do:
And do not be worried by that which frustrates you.
Your Lord walks beside you; He'll carry you through:
You are his child

Just "Count your blessings," so said that much loved song;
Your Lord understands- to Him you belong.
Trust him for the future; be content; then be strong:
You are his child.

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