Elizabeth was a pin girl. As a young teen in the 1950s, her first job was to manually reset the bowling pins after each player had bowled, a role long since replaced by machinery. Now in her 80s and a member of Grace Church, Markham, she told the story when members of the congregation were socializing on Zoom after a mid-week service during the pandemic.
That conversation, and others like it, sparked an idea in Aaron Dumpala, the parish’s music director. “You could see how nice it was to talk about her childhood. I could only help but wonder how many seniors or others have interesting stories that wouldn’t be heard by anyone,” he says. “We started learning things about each other that many who had gone to the same church for 30-plus years didn’t even know about their fellow parishioners.”
Mr. Dumpala had recently set up a recording studio at Grace with high-quality audio and video equipment. He’d been using it to record choir members and to support the parish’s live streamed services, but he wanted to find other projects that could make use of the space. He was also eager to involve youth more fully in the life of the parish, and he had noticed that the young people at Grace were interested in media production.
In connecting that wish to engage youth with the desire to help seniors share their stories, Talk of the Ages was born. Mr. Dumpala envisions it as a series of intergenerational interviews, with one host and one guest for each episode. The format will start with young people interviewing seniors, but there will be flexibility as the series gets going. “The only criteria will be that there must be a minimum of a five-year difference between the participants, preferably a generation or two gap,” he says.
While Talk of the Ages will focus initially on members of Grace, Mr. Dumpala says he hopes to broaden its scope as it develops. He and his brother, the Rev. Yohan Dumpala, plan to adapt the concept at St. John the Baptist, Norway, where Yohan is the assistant curate. They also hope to bring the series to more Anglican churches, involving youth from all parts of the diocese. “It will be open to any parish that would like to join us in adding to the series,” says Mr. Dumpala.
Talk of the Ages also won’t necessarily be limited to church members. “Of course we’re doing this for Grace and the Anglican Church, but if someone in the neighbhourhood wants to talk about part of their life, they’re more than welcome,” says Mr. Dumpala. “It will be really nice to showcase people’s stories.”
The interviews will be available both as videos and as podcasts so that people can enjoy them on as many platforms as possible. With interviews set to start in the fall, Mr. Dumpala hopes to have the first episodes posted in October.
God nudges us into new territory