Posts tagged ‘Bobby Joe Saucer’

Elderly African Americans: A Challenge to the Black Church

As African-Americans live longer there are many difficult issues that they must face. Health is a major concern for Blacks over sixty five. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 40% of Blacks over 65 years old say their health is either poor or just fair. Money is another problem that gets worse as Blacks live longer. According to the Census Bureaus almost half of all Blacks over 65 years old are poor, or “economically vulnerable”. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provide one out of every two dollars for elderly African-Americans. Living longer for many people also means losing spouses, loved ones, and friends.

Governments and social service agencies have an important role to play in meeting the needs of all older Americans. Dr. Bobby Joe Saucer the former Dean of the Morehouse School of Religion in Atlanta and a retired American Baptist Church executive says the Black church must take on added responsibilities in meeting the special needs of older African-Americans. In his book, Our Help in Ages Past, Saucer identifies the many problems faced by elderly Blacks and outlines several programs that churches should create to meet these needs.

Saucer says the Black church is the place where African-Americans have always found help with their problems. The civil rights struggle was based in Black churches and led mostly by Black ministers. It is the source of comfort and support for all life changing events from birth, marriage, to death. Churches can provide help to people outside government control. And churches were the places where Blacks were welcomed, respected and held positions of leadership.

A major issue, churches must face is what Saucer calls the “Isaac Syndrome“. In the Old Testament, Isaac the son of Abraham waited until he was too old and sick to pass on his wisdom and leadership. Saucer says that churches must help their elderly members get their affairs in order. Churches should help their members create “living legacies” as well as, estate plans. Elderly Blacks need to have wills, powers of attorney and living wills so their wishes can be met if they become too ill to decide on their own.

In, Our Help in Ages Past, there is also a description of several ministries that Black churches need to consider. These include helping elderly members who are raising young children. Also there is a need to insure that older members are fully incorporated

into the life of the church and continue to be respected as valued members. Churches need to support their sick members by continuing to visit and recognize them. The church should also support members who are serving as caregivers to family and friends.

As church pastors become elderly, they too need special attention. The book quotes Dr. George E. Weaver as saying that too many Black pastors are,” too old to pastor and too poor to quit.” Many churches have not provided for pastors to survive in retirement. Churches also have often not developed younger people to succeed the pastor and other leaders to continue the church’s success.

Most importantly, Saucer says the Black Church must recognize the opportunities to serve the Black elderly. The church must also have sensitivity to the conditions of the elderly in their local communities. Finally, churches must become advocates for policies and programs that meet the needs of the Black elderly.

Our Help in Ages Past: The Black Church’s Ministry Among the Elderly is published by Judson Press.

copyright Tri-State Defender 2008

March 1, 2008 at 6:48 pm Leave a comment


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