What I enjoy most about POAMN is networking and forming friendships with others who share their passion for older adult ministry. These are women and men of deep faith who have spent a lifetime ministering to, with, and for older adults. They have a knack for reaching out, lifting us up to their level, and helping us grow spiritually. Allow me to share a few stories about three folks that you may have come to know, and be inspired by, through POAMN: Rev. Dr. James Reese, Helen Morrison, and Rev. Dr. Richard Morgan.
Quentin A. Holmes
Rev. Dr. James Reese
I first met Rev. Jim Reese in May 2000, during a conference at Montreat. I went with a Haitian colleague, and we were both afraid no one else of color would be at the conference. Jim Reese showed up to lead a workshop. My colleague and Jim would end up spending a good deal of time together in conversation.
In October 2013, I saw Jim’s name on the conference roster for the POAMN/ARMSS National Conference in Atlanta. I had not seen Jim since Montreat, although I had begun noticing his name on the sign board of a small PC(USA) church in my Philadelphia neighborhood. I made a phone call, and soon Jim and his beautiful wife, Neola, were sharing a relaxed breakfast with me in Atlanta.
After that, Jim and I crossed paths more often. Jim taught classes and preached for over 70 years, and I admired the friendly and humble manner with which he related to his small Philadelphia congregation.
The last time Jim and Neola Reese and I were physically together is my most precious memory of this couple. I had befriended Richard, a member of Jim’s congregation who was paralyzed in a car accident thirty years earlier. Jim knew I was visiting Richard on a regular basis, but Jim (now 93 or 94 years old) had limited his driving.
Jim wanted to serve Communion to Richard, so he asked me if I could pick him up at church, along with Neola, and drive them to the facility where Richard was living. I gladly made the arrangements, and the four of us had a very poignant visit and Communion/Prayer Service, with Jim blessing the elements and me feeding them to Richard.
In 2016, POAMN and the Association of Retired Ministers, Spouses and Survivors (ARMSS) held their fifth consecutive joint conference, this time in Richmond, Virginia. On Tuesday evening, Rev. Reese welcomed everyone to the event on behalf of Ella Banton, ARMSS president who was unable to attend. Jim’s message was clear, full of wisdom gained during his 92 years of life, and straight from his heart.
“Let me remind you that no other denomination has an organization for its retired ministers, spouses, and survivors,” he pointed out.
Rev. Reese concluded his opening remarks with, “When you leave, it is our fondest hope that you will be greater in knowledge, greater in friendship, and that all that you do beginning today for the rest of your life will be to the glory of God.”
Helen Morrison, Presbyterian extraordinaire, was part of the effort that created POAMN. Aged 94 at her death in 2021, she was a 60-year member of Grosse Ile (Michigan) Presbyterian Church. Her accomplishments were many, and she remained an involved member of the community throughout her entire life.
Helen grew up in the south end of Dearborn, a Detroit suburb. She married young and had three sons. As her boys completed college, she went back to school herself at University of Michigan-Dearborn and got a degree in sociology and psychology. Her husband’s untimely death derailed their plan to open a career consulting business. Nevertheless, Helen went on to be a life and career consultant for the rest of her days.
That did not limit her Presbyterian commitments. She was Sunday School superintendent at church, an elder, part of education committees at the Presbytery and Synod. She was a representative of the Presbytery of Detroit at several General Assemblies and served at all four levels of PC(USA). Helen served on the Board of Presbyterian Villages for several years and was pivotal in organizing an Older Adult Ministry commission at Grosse Ile Presbyterian Church. Each one of these involvements was because she cared about people and she cared about her faith.
Helen’s proudest moment came in 2014 at that year’s General Assembly, when she was designated a “Prophetic Woman of Faith.” That meant she was following the examples of prophets and apostles who came before her. It was also a very appropriate way of describing Helen. Rev. Karl Travis, who nominated her for the award, said, “Helen, at 86, exhibits the two most obvious qualities of all prophets: a clear vision of righteousness accompanied by an unabashed willingness to share it.”
That is a perfect description of Helen Morrison, one which makes it easy to understand why the loss of her is felt so keenly. The most we can hope for is to emulate the example she set as we thank God for having had her with us as long as we did.
In the 1980s Helen Morrison served as one of the original “Older Adult Enablers” whose mission was to establish and support older adult ministry in 16 Synods. By 1991 their group had grown to more than 225 “enablers.”
Helen’s passion for older adult ministry was infectious. She helped create what ended up being Presbyterian Older Adult Ministries Network, and later served as POAMN’s president from 2011 to 2014. Helen was a person of deep faith who pioneered the way for women to serve in leadership roles in the Presbyterian Church. She was my mentor.
Rev. Dr. Richard Morgan
Upon awarding Dr. Morgan the POAMN Legacy Award in 2013
Tonight I’m privileged to honor someone for whom words about the Word are very important. Richard Morgan is all about helping us find God in the middle of all of our life experiences, through the good times and the challenging ones, particularly as we age. One of my favorite images of him depicts a man sitting at a simple desk, pen in hand, writing.
Richard Morgan grew up in the shadow of the Universities of Kentucky and Pennsylvania, a preacher’s kid and a preacher’s grandkid. Learning, teaching, and writing were a given in his family tree.
Dick pursued graduate studies at Wake Forest University and Union Theological Seminary, with a Ph. D. in Early Christian History, for a grand total of four graduate degrees. This education was integrated into a career path that includes pastorates, college teaching, counseling, pastoral care, and writing.
Dick was serving a small congregation made up of mostly older adults in North Carolina when he had a revelation that led him to become dedicated to older adult ministry.
“I was looking out over my congregation and realized the majority was older than 70, yet they wanted a creative, innovative ministry,” he recalled.
Through his books and countless presentations, Richard Morgan has taken us all on a journey of the Spirit based on the notion that aging is a sacred work. Understanding the intersections of my story, your story, and God’s story are central to a healthy old age.
I have a bookshelf dedicated to Dick’s gift of writing, and a file drawer full of AGEnda newsletters published over a ten-year period under his skilled editing for POAMN.
We are so fortunate to present this year’s Legacy Award to Dr. Richard L. Morgan, the guy who always has a new book in the wings!