As I cruise the highways and byways of American senior adult life, I often come upon folks whose spirituality can be described as “outlier.” Re-affirmed by *Malcom Gladwell, the term may also illustrate an important feature of older-adult spirituality: Individuals who don’t always feel connected to the usual manifestations of Christianity.
Not all of us consider ourselves outliers, of course. Our faith families are still cherished places of belonging, anchoring our sense of self. We know and value the heritages we have received. We’re not going anywhere.
Others of us have come through the pandemic’s semi-isolation with the sense that we might have drifted away from our congregations’ priorities or identities. It’s not something we can always find words for, so those thoughts have a tentative quality to them. One possible result: When this pandemic’s restrictions are lifted—and we’re able to roam freely again—we older outliers may not be as ready to head back to our former congregational places or presumptions.
I don’t know how widespread this phenomenon might be, nor do I have any clear sense where this could lead. I am sure, though, that those who feel like outliers are not alone.
Outliers have always existed in every congregation, so this is nothing new. But what if we outliers found each other, shared our pandemic-inspired thoughts and asked how together we might be part of what’s next for our congregations? It’s possible that we might be one of the key elements in the church’s future.
Okay, that’s it for now. I’m heading back out onto the highways and byways—always good places to find outlying people like you!
*Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success celebrates how those considered to be just a little outside of usual attitudes or behaviors may be among society’s most valuable members.