Where do you find Veronica “Ronnie” Bluey and Ellen Cianelli on a Friday morning? Typically, outside. That’s when the two of them get together to walk and talk and pray about ideas and dreams for a new ministry that they are spearheading at Northstar Church.
“I was asking God what would be a good way to get refocused on what really counts,” Ronnie said. “As long as I am alive, I know God has preplanned good works that He wants me to fulfill and to run my race focused on Him.”
Meditating on the first two verses of Hebrews 12, the seed was sown for the beginnings of a ministry that is meant to encourage people approaching the later stages of life to finish the race strong, sprinting toward that finish line.
It’s called the Grand Connect.
“I was researching names to get for a group that would help me in this race, and I thought that since Northstar’s Connect ministry was for college kids, the Grand Connect would be a perfect name” said Ronnie.
“Honestly, walking outside in the fresh air with Ronnie every Friday morning and listening to her idea for the Grand Connect inspired me to want to get involved with this ministry,” shared Ellen.
Together, they’ve described this new ministry as a meeting of mature believers living in the last trimester of life on earth. It’s a fellowship of Christians, 50 and above, who support one another in the ministry of love and good works as they fix their eyes on our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through personal testimonies, small group discussions, and prayer, they hope to explore shared life experiences, helping each other throw off the things that hinder their run to the finish line.
With several colleges in our area, it is easy for churches the in New River Valley to spend much of their time and resources focusing on students. In some ways, this can cause other demographics to be unintentionally overlooked. Ronnie and Ellen do not want that to be the case with the Grand Connect.
The group meets monthly at Northstar’s downtown location, The Reserve. Each month, they discuss relevant topics as well as enjoy great food. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, havie fun, and also identify ways to serve. Discussion topics have included: taking care of parents, adult children, becoming grandparents, sickness, the death of a spouse, wills, etc.
Each gathering, a different person shares the challenges that they have discovered about a particular topic. Breaking into smaller groups gives more individuals the opportunity to share success stories, worries and fears. The overall goal is to encourage one another and to leave each gathering refreshed.
“We get into ruts,” Ronnie said. “I’ve seen this in myself, and I would be okay to not socialize that much, but I feel God wants me to reach out to people in our church and also in the community at large.”
When asked what people should expect, Ellen said:
“They can expect a wakeup call to be in the present moment, to appreciate breath, to read the Bible, to love each other, to learn together, and to get busy being bold in faith to run the race of their lifetime toward the finish line!”
In a community that seems at times dominated by college students, the Grand Connect is designed to allow those with more life experience to share their wisdom, invest in service, and learn from one another, all while having a great time.
If you’re over 50 but young at heart, you’re invited to be a part. Gatherings are open to everyone and are on Saturdays, once a month, at 7:00 p.m. Check out the calendar link for the next date. If you’d like more information, please contact Ronnie or Ellen at firstname.lastname@example.org.