SAGE Adventists Organize Across the West
The American sage,” they whispered. “Honest Abe.”
Strong of body, agile of mind, the melancholic father of the “Grand Old Party” seemed wise beyond his years.
Quick to capitalize on what he could not disguise, he purposely identified his name and party with “conservative values” of the founding fathers. With his eye on the Oval Office, he often jokingly-and at times bitingly-chastened fractious “Young America” for acting like children.
How could America speak of sharing the “blessings of liberty” with other lands, while holding nearly a tenth of its own population in brazen bondage, he preached.
Historians now agree that it was under Lincoln’s kind but firm guidance that America scratched its peach fuzz and became for the first time a unified nation.
Like America of the 1850s, Northwestern Adventism today can use sage advice.
And thousands of Adventists of age and experience are filling the shoes of Lincoln for American Adventism, helping lift the spirits and bear the burdens, as Adventism forsakes many of its adolescent ways and concentrates full-tilt on its Global Mission to the world.
“Seniors in Action for God with Excellence,” or SAGE, has organized chapters in the Oregon, Upper Columbia, and Washington conferences, with prospects for chapters in other North Pacific Union Conference conferences. Last month, the Minnesota Conference created a SAGE organization. British Columbia and Northern California conferences are also interested in forming chapters.
Building churches, refurbishing youth camps, traveling together for overseas Global Mission experiences, gathering for animated annual convocations, touring historical Adventist sites, and providing direction and leadership in local churches, SAGE members are beginning to affect the church in striking ways.
Its membership now stands at 3,000 in the Northwest alone—double what it was two years ago.
Lincoln came to the presidency in the “four-score-and-fourth” year of his nation’s life; in a surprising parallel, SAGE came on the Northwestern scene in 1990, exactly 84 years after the organization of the North Pacific Union Conference.
It began as an idea in the mind of Jerry Brass, then Washington Conference trust director, who foresaw that during the next 40 years, Adventists born between 1920 and 1960 would be retiring at an accelerating rate, while the number of young adults would decline.
A minister and youth leader for the Church during the 1960s, Brass understood the tremendous trauma that had divided the generations during the 1960s.
He asked himself, “Now, what can we as a Church do to nurture and guide one of the most active, spirited, and dedicated generations the Church has ever known as they make the transition to retirement?”
His answer was a SAGE one. And there’s been no turning back.
From a few dozen members that first year, SAGE membership in the Washington Conference has now grown to more than 1,500 and has donated work and funds for worthy causes valued in the millions of dollars.
Brass and his wife, Bev, retired several years ago, and the SAGE mantle fell to the shoulders of Bob and Carrol Grady. Under his leadership and Carrol’s winsome newsletter editing, “SAGE Advice,” the organization is now achieving an outpouring of national recognition.
“Here in the Washington Conference, SAGE sponsors between 12 and 16 events a year, about half in the area, the other half involving travel and greater expense,” says Robert Grady.
“We sponsor one evangelistic trip outside the country a year—usually in January. And here in the Conference, SAGE offers one day of free assistance to any church involved in a building program. SAGE members are extremely talented and energetic, and a team of SAGE members can easily accomplish in one day what would cost $10,000-$20,000 if hired out.”
SAGE sponsors educational and historical tours, many involving denominational history. “I have
been a youth leader in my time,” says Grady, “and I can tell you that when a person retires and leaves the job market, there is often as strong a temptation to become disengaged from ministry as there is for a young person just entering the job market. Retirees can become lonely and discouraged. SAGE activities are designed to strengthen faith, while providing companionship and encouragement. Frankly, every event we sponsor, we have the time of our lives!”
SAGE membership is limited to those 50 years and older, and the organization and its events have become so popular, many forty-something church members claim to be looking forward to their 50th birthday, so they can join.
The SAGE mission states, “Recognizing Christ’s commission for service, SAGE members dedicate themselves as channels for His loving kindness. Our purpose is to honor God by experiencing spiritual growth and portraying His attributes through active service.”
Says Grady, “We are constantly receiving inquiries, and we welcome those who want to receive more information.
“The Oregon Conference SAGE chapter has a Web site you can visit, sageoregon.org. We’re working on a Web site here in Washington, but information is available from Joan Libby, email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone (425) 481-7171.
“Next year, Washington SAGE will build a church in the beautiful Dominican Republic. We could use some more help. Contact us if you’d like to go.”
SAGE is emerging as a solid backbone for a Church wrestling to define its purpose in a challenging world.
Its sage advice to share the gospel with the world is great counsel for Seventh-day Adventists of any age, of any era. As young Adventists dedicate themselves to service, SAGE’s parallel influence is bringing unity across the Northwestern church.
Abraham Lincoln would approve. •
Edwin A. Schwisow edits the GLEANER from Vancouver, Wash.