A Ministry for Later-life Wellness

A ministry for later-life wellness with poetry and song

Jerry’s Story about his Rite of Passage to Later-Life

Sometimes we start something good without knowing where it will end.  That’s when counting on the Word of God makes co-creators of us all.           

-Joan Chittister Songs of Joy @1997

In January 2018 my wife Carol and I spent two weeks vacationing with friends on the Island of Maui.  One day Carol announced she was going to attend a beginners’ class on how to play the ukulele.  I had been a rockin’ freestyle guitar player and singer from childhood and I was at first very cool on the idea of a ukulele.  But truth be told, I was in something of a rut with my music and hadn’t done much new for years.  I told Carol I would sit in the back of the class just to listen.  Before the first class was over I found my way to the front and was handed a sweet little four-string tenor to play along.  The spirit of the instructor, a lively woman in her mid-70s, was contagious.  We ended up buying two ukuleles to take home with us.  Since then I have traded up twice and added a 6-string baritone ukulele to my collection of musical instruments.

To my pleasant surprise, learning to play the ukulele at age 67 has opened the way for me to experience a second maturity in the music I compose, sing, and record.  Most of the songs included in this book have been written and recorded playing the uke.  This fun little instrument now plays a key role in my music, strong in the song of the sacred.  Today I am energized to play and sing with renewed gusto for both the fun and the positive impact music has on the soul.   And I simply love the way a ukulele puts people at ease and makes them smile!

In the fall of 2018 I attended a Sage-ing International Conference in Chaska, Minnesota.  I had first read Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Ronald S. Miller for a class at Seattle University several years before.  With a few more years under my belt and having read a number of other books on aging, I returned to this wise and inspiring guidebook with renewed interest.  I took some classes online and learned more at the conference.  My experience in Minnesota with the people at Sage-ing International had a profound effect on me and my view of aging.  I returned home with the desire to intentionally become a spiritual elder.

In the spring of 2019 I poured over the Sage-ing Workbook based upon Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi’s sage-ing principles.  During the 40 days of Lent that year I carefully and prayerfully completed each of the exercises.  All are designed to help harness the power of the Holy Spirit for deep inner work– harvesting the wisdom of my years, healing painful memories, finding my voice and discerning my call in later-life.  By Easter I was ready to begin working earnestly to complete this book and get prepared to use the gifts of music and poetry as a “rockin’” elder.

Often when we arrive at a place of clarity, we recognize that this sense of call has not come all at once but gradually grows inside us before it finally dawns on us in greater fullness.  In my first collection of poems Out from the Shadows: Poetic Portraits of Faith, published in 2007, I give expression to a faith journey through the dark valley of a midlife crisis.  In Peach, Limestone, and Green, published after my first wife Denise died, I share letters and poems I wrote on my journey through loss and grief.  While I both embraced and pushed back from sources of comfort along the way, I was touched by grace time and again which empowered me to continue with hope, my creative writing helping to heal and harvest wisdom for growth and maturity.

With Called to be Alive! I have turned again to the practice of creative writing together with other contemplative arts like lectio divina, journaling, music, meditation, and forest bathing to help do the inner work necessary for me to navigate from midlife to elderhood.  Deciding not to merely drift into my older years, I have embraced aging as a spiritual practice by which I gain enlightenment and am enlivened for purposeful living.  As a conscious elder, I am open and responsive to the promptings of Spirit, meaningfully engaged in the completion of my life on earth. 

While my career as a parish pastor has had a beginning and an end, I understand my vocation to service is life-long.  In this book you have witnessed a rite of passage to a new chapter in my life.  Through songs and poetry my sense of call has arrived with fresh clarity.  Stirred by the voice of Wisdom I intend to break into song and I hope this book and recordings will encourage you to sing along!

Jerry R. O’Neill

Hammond, Oregon

August 2021


“Jerry is a wonderful person and a talented artist!!!  I look forward to hearing him in concert.”

-David Drury, Guitarist

“I have had the pleasure of sharing life and times with Jerry O’Neill for over 45 years.  Had he not already done so, I would have chosen “Called to be Alive!” as the title for his book.  Jerry continues to study, learn, and grow as he describes in his life journey through these poems and songs.  Not only the words on these pages but the feelings that they emote stir within me the continued call to be all that I can be while I am still alive.” 

-David Lura, United Methodist Pastor and USN Reserve Chaplain, retired

“In my friendship with Jerry O’Neill over the past ten years, I have come to see his depth of character and the poetry that flows so freely from those depths.  I have enjoyed his writings, our conversations, and his spiritual presence.  I look forward to his continued creative pursuits.”

-Minister Emerita, Pacific Unitarian Universalist Fellowship


“Jerry has that spark in his music that makes children and adults alike rise up in song and dancing.”                       

-Carol Gannaway, Sunday and Vacation Bible School Coordinator, retired

“How wonderful, Jerry!  Congrats!  Full strumming ahead!”

-Suzanne West, Hospital Chaplain and Spiritual Director

“Marvelous poetic and beautiful melodious words that reach deeply.”

                                                                        -Cheryll Armstrong-Kaukis, ELCA Pastor, retired

“Halle Yahweh” is beautiful!  A favorite right along with “Mellie Maple.”  Jerry has taken on an ambitious project of writing and music and it has paid off!  Congratulations!

-Linda B Abegglen Nevermann,

Handbell Choir Director and Adult Education Coordinator

“Jerry’s gifts indeed “flow like a river!”  While many of us struggle in later life to find our way, Jerry paints a beautiful path in helping us to clear the way to becoming full-on, life-loving, engaging, and emerging Elders.

-Stephanie Swensson, Commissioned Lutheran Lay Minister

Jerry is a gifted poet.  I find his work hope-filled and inspiring.”

-Rev Dr. Rick Rouse

“Called to be Alive!” is a good and worthy collection of poetry that will offer readers encouragement to be more intentional about aging and their relationship with God.  I particularly appreciate the way he includes questions with his poems, which serve nicely as devotional prompts.”

-Rev Sue Irvin, ELCA Pastor

“This is not a book to go through quickly as many of the writings call to return and to ponder.  A main thrust of this book is that of praise and an honoring of creation and Creator, calling us to thankfulness.  While sharing his music and words with uplifting smiles and a cheerful informality of presentation, Jerry calls us to a renewed sense of responsibility to tend to the care of creation and to explore the gifts we have to share to be alive at any age.”

-Rev John Wecker, ELCA Retired Pastor/Artist

“I’m so glad to have been a part of Jerry’s Called to be Alive! sing & chat concert recently.  Hearing explanations about the songs and then the live performance = genius. You’re onto something here. Pure joy and life affirming!”

-Monica Alleven

“My heart is touched and lifted from being at Jerry R. O’Neill’s “Called to Be Alive” live concert and book signing at Trinity in Freeland tonight.

I am fortunate to call Jerry – retired Pastor Jerry my friend and Spiritual and Creative muse.

A joyous and beautiful combination of Soul Music along with the 3 Ukeleles that Jerry plays so masterfully and which so well accompany his singing and lovely rich-toned voice.

I have been following Jerry’s poetry for a long time and have had the chance to sing a song or two with him which I have so enjoyed.

I highly recommend purchasing his book “Called to Be Alive” and checking out his YouTube station so you can also enjoy his original music!”

—Jana Szabo

Spiritual Care

and Guidance

Fostering soulful friendship with individuals and small groups on Zoom and in person for care and guidance in the rite of passage from mid to later-life, helping each discern their own unique spirituality, growth, and vocation.


Poetry, Music, and Contemplative Writing

Offering poetry and songs for worship, visitation ministry, devotional services, benefit concerts, sing & chat sessions, workshops for contemplative arts, Earth Day celebrations, and more.


Care for the Earth

Support for organic orchards and regenerative agriculture, Care of the Earth workshops, Earth Day celebrations, and benefit concerts for local organic farm schools.


For a Christian, later-life wellness is a calling to be wise and fully alive in the ways of Jesus Christ, spiritually mature, and purposefully engaged with others in God’s work in the world.

Jerry O’Neill

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