Date of Award

2-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

Department

Seminary

First Advisor

Stephen Garner

Second Advisor

Carole Spencer

Abstract

Within American culture, the fear of aging creates an obsessive focus on staying young. The Christian church acquiesces to this fear by avoiding the imperative conversation about aging, putting at risk those in the second half of life. The beauty and shadow side of aging offer a unique opportunity to counter the cultural norm, through contemplation in spiritual- and self-awareness. A contemplative life cultivates a place to face the realities of aging. By deepening a relationship with God and others, the aging follower of Jesus Christ navigates a way through the highs and lows of getting older. Research in spirituality and contemplative practices corroborates the value of paying attention to aging in both its adverse and its affirming qualities. By acknowledging changes that occur in the second half of life, followers of Jesus Christ benefit from spiritual practices that shape wisdom and resiliency - markers of living well. Acquired through gift and practice, the outcome of spiritual awareness engenders greater freedom to walk gracefully in the way of aging as stated in Proverbs 16:31: “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.”

This dissertation elevates the value of contemplative practices for the second half of life. Section one describes the aging crisis in America, currently affecting Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation and some of Generation X. As one ages, changing realities present obstacles that require a new perception about aging, spirituality, Christian community, and contemplation. Section two describes various efforts that address aging from other disciplines: health sciences, emotional, theological, and cultural academic fields of study. Section three proposes four particular movements in contemplative practice that shape aging gracefully, seen through markers of wisdom and resiliency: 1) live intentionally with legacy and purpose, 2) hold creative tension in mystery and paradox, 3) focus on hope with perspective and generativity, and 4) value community through expressions of forgiveness and gratitude. Section four describes the artifact, a ten-week curriculum, “Aging Gracefully: The Art of Elegant Kenosis,” that offers contemplative practices to shape aging through wisdom and resiliency in the second half of life. Section five articulates the specifications for the artifact. Section six summarizes the collective value of my personal learning from the dissertation focus.

Included in

Christianity Commons

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