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Aging Matters by R. Paul Stevens & Still Valued and Blessed by Patrick Coghlan

by
08 September 2017

Ann Morisy compares two advisers of those not getting younger

Aging Matters: Finding your calling for the rest of your life

R. Paul Stevens

Eerdmans £12.99

(978-0-8028-7233-3)

Church Times Bookshop £11.70

 

Still Valued and Blessed: Serving God in our senior years

Patrick Coghlan

Kevin Mayhew £12.99

(978-1-84867-905-4)

Church Times Bookshop £11.70

 

 

BOTH authors, one British, one Canadian, are experienced in the business of getting old, and so have the right to speak of later life with some authority.

Paul Stevens, emeritus professor of market-place theology in Vancouver, offers the outcome of disciplined and thoughtful reading, characterised by detailed references, with a thorough and welcome bibliography and index. This makes for an engaging assemblage of quotations (with Paul Tournier’s marvellous Learn to Grow Old to the fore). Stevens’s academic prowess has done great service in pulling together so many hard-won insights in such an accessible volume.

Stevens finds his own voice as he reflects on the challenges faced by ageing friends and family, and humbly speculates on the resources that he will try to draw on when experiencing similar challenges. He then turns the challenge to his readers: Is there late-life work you need to do? If so, what is it? And note: the challenge is in relation to late (as opposed to later) life, because Stevens expatiates on death and dying in a frank and fearless manner.

Stevens organises his material into three sections — Calling, Spirituality, and Legacy — concluding each chapter with material for personal or group reflection. He provides thorough biblical referencing, so much so that, except for advanced academic study, you will find a proficient synopsis of what the Bible can and does say about ageing, to the extent of supporting the occasional sermon. Overall, if you feel that your life needs a book on ageing from a Christian perspective, then this might be the one. But just a warning: such prominent spelling of “aging” might inculcate the loss of the “e” that is so essential to British ageing.

Patrick Coghlan’s contribution is less fulfilling, unless your faith is solidly confident that God holds your hand even as you decide whether to eat pizza or pasta. He provides 14 rather claustrophobic homilies, which urge the reader towards an extensive “points to ponder” section, commending personal journaling, to include a personal “to do” list. Coghlan seems unaware of the trapdoor that is at the core of his efforts: “Still valued” in the title implies a reality we know too well. Older people are not valued either in society or Church; unfortunately, Coghlan seems oblivious of this toxic aspect of everyday life.

He offers comfort derived predominantly from Old Testament verses for those for whom a questioning faith has expired, and Mayhew, the publisher, must think that there remains a market for such self-referential assurance.

 

Dr Ann Morisy is a freelance community theologian and lecturer.

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