I celebrated my 60th birthday in late December. As one of four million American “Baby Boomers” who turned 60 in 2011, I have officially joined the ranks of the “oldies.” Not so long ago this would have meant the approach of the end of life—certainly the end of working life. But today, it is quite possible that people who are now 60 have one third of their lives ahead. Still, there is no denying that when you pass 60, you cannot pretend that you are still young. The jokes about old age suddenly seem not quite so funny!
Many of you reading this also are in your seventh decade. We do not feel “old” in our minds, and may even resent suggestions that we are past our prime. A 1995 study of Americans between 55 and 74 revealed that most felt 12 years younger than their actual age. Though this may be good in some ways, it is not good that our society fears and resents growing old. As those engaged in God’s work, we must not buy into the myth that we can keep going forever (we will, of course, but not as frail, temporary human beings). Instead, we should be thinking of and preparing for the future—not just our own, but the future of those who look to us for leadership and direction, and who will carry on the work after us.
As the president of Grace Communion International, I think often about what lies ahead for our denomination after my contribution has been made. I believe that GCI has a future! I don’t know all the details, but I see encouraging signs. We truly are a worldwide church. In some places our congregations are growing rapidly—bursting with youth and energy. In others, numerical growth is harder to come by, but our members are growing in love and service. Many are reaching out in mission at home and around the world. Through these activities, grounded in our growing understanding of Trinitarian theology, I believe God is showing us that we have a role in bringing the good news of salvation to a world that needs it so desperately.
Looking back, especially over the last 15 years during which I have been privileged to serve as GCI’s president and Pastor General, I realize that I cannot claim credit for what has happened. I feel sometimes that I have been swept along by events that I did not plan and could not have anticipated. I pray that GCI will play a useful role in this exciting journey of discovery.
Joseph Tkach, 2012