Susanne and I agreed to conduct a worship or church service for a few weeks at an assisted living facility in Bradenton, Florida. The facility is new, and they have not found anyone to provide this service. Some dear friends of mine from Fort Wayne, Indiana days are residents there, so when the activities director contacted me, we agreed to see if this was something we should do for this season of our lives. Sunday was our first attempt. It helps that Susanne has been a full-time chaplain at a hospital, and she was comfortable speaking with the residents and engaging them in conversation. It was time for the service. Susanne opened and greeted the people and prayed. She read the passage that I would be preaching from. Susanne then led in singing one of the most famous hymns of all time: “Amazing Grace.” We had no hymnals, screens, or words projected, just the human voice. While she was leading the song, I was sitting where I could see everyone, the residents, and a couple of staff members. What captured my attention? The few who were in the service from memory care. To this point, they had not said anything. They did not say hello when we greeted them, and they had that distant, somewhat fearful look that I have witnessed many times with those suffering from memory loss. Something began stirring when the introductory music started playing. From my vantage point, their countenances changed. Fear seemed to melt away. From somewhere deep inside them, something was familiar. A couple of them mouthed or sang every word of every verse! Even the ones who did not sing looked like they were engaged and worshipped the Lord. After Susanne had finished singing, I brought a devotional from Matthew 14. I asked Susanne to close, and it happened all over again when she led them in singing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
My observations from a worship service in an assisted living facility:
- Worship can happen anywhere at anytime
- The service reminded me of how I started. Forty-eight years ago, when I received my first minister’s license, I preached a couple of times at the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission and a couple of nursing homes.
- The songs of faith impact and stay with us. Deep within the heart, regardless of cognitive decline, these songs we have sung live and minister and mean something.
- Ministry is available all around us. At lunch, we remarked to each other how great it felt to be doing ministry, not because we had to, but because it was needed.
- I was helped more than the residents. The service so blessed me. I was reminded that worship is real, impactful, helpful, and encouraging.
- Serving is an essential part of our faith. Consumerism has so infected us that we ask what is in it for me, do I like the preaching or the music? We forget that we are called to serve.
One final aspect of amazing grace I noticed yesterday is that His amazing grace is with us from start to finish and all along the way. Today truly offer thanks regardless of your circumstances for His amazing grace. Whatever worship songs you enjoy and are meaningful to you, will be the ones you sing all the way to the end of your earthly journey.