I took my seat next to Daddy and his new friend, Lorena. It was nothing like I expected. Visiting the Sunday morning worship service at my daddy's retirement home was on my list of things to do since he moved in a couple of weeks ago. But there have been so MANY things to do: getting his tiny apartment live-in ready with the favorite things that hopefully make him feel more at home... making sure he gets to meals and snack times (don't want him to miss a meal!) ...impromptu pool games in the social area (my hubby and my daddy -- I don't do pool)... taking care of financial issues and paperwork... planning a little party for his 89th birthday, and countless other tying-up-loose-end chores involved when you move a parent into assisted living after being on his own for 70+ years.
I for one have had some issue in recent years with organized religion. This I openly admit, and have absolutely no reservation in admitting so. I believe God expects us to question things -- not Him maybe so much, but things. When we question, we grow. In so many instances I believe worship has become a business more than a pleasurable and purposeful experience as in the early days with volunteers pulling together their resources for the sole purpose of worshiping God alone. In other words, not for the purpose of growing a mega church, a huge enterprise with an executive board, or anything that reflects either of the two. It's not that I think churches shouldn't grow and it's not that I think churches shouldn't have programs necessarily. It's that I think many churches have lost the original vision of the church, and that is to be the place in the community (or retirement home, for that matter) where people can gather, pray for one another, and be inspired to grow in their faith and then use that growth to help others do the same. I'm sorry, but it just doesn't take a huge budget, state-of-the-art equipment, or 50,000 square feet of space to accomplish that.
So this morning was finally the morning we worked it out to meet my dad and gather in the "worship room." Now, I'm not sure this is what the room is actually called, but on a recent walk around the facilities where we familiarized ourselves with the location of the library, the theatre, the dining hall, and many small and reflective sitting areas, I came to the conclusion that this lively blue room was probably where the parishioners gathered on Sunday morning. I believe it also serves as a party room. I made this determination by observing the 20x10-foot or so parquet dance floor inlay at the back of the room and the brightly-colored paper lanterns lining the center entryway. This is your multitasking room to the "nth degree." With a little imagination, it could even host a small wedding. In a retirement home you ask? From what I hear, romance is alive and well in that place! But what clued me in to the fact that it is, indeed, the Sunday morning worship spot? The piano and the stack of hymn books in the corner in EXTRA-LARGE PRINT.
This morning's worship experience was not without some components that brought a smile to my face and reminded me that you are never, ever too old to be used by God. It also brought to my heart and mind a freshness that is hard to understand, in light of the fact not one person (save me, my husband, and the ministers) was under the age of 80. It was a small group...I'd say less than 25 folks. And as the picture shows, it was a conglomeration of canes, walkers, pushers, and those being pushed. I noticed when we entered there was ample space for those in wheelchairs to pull right up and take their place. It took just a brief glance to see the sweet little lady offering her talents at the piano was a resident there and an even closer look revealed the oxygen tube fastened to her nostrils. After the music portion was completed, she took her place on the side and her oxygen tank hummed a peaceful rhythm throughout the remainder of the service. The message was short and encouraging. It focused on reminding this precious group of elderly people that God is not finished with them yet and will continue to have work for them to do until they exit this place for their eternal home. The preacher didn't exactly say it in those words, but you get the gist. It was a message of hope, some laughter as well, and also tender moments. I fought back tears as one of the ministers shared a bit of his story, telling how one of his grade-school teachers (who happens to be a resident there and was in the room) had loved him with an unconditional love and how he owed who he is today to her faith in him. Laughter errupted as he called one of the gentlemen out by name who had dozed off behind us. He slept right through his name being shouted out!
But I guess the one silver thread (or should I say golden thread maybe in light of the attendees?!) running through the entire service was this: In spite of less than perfect music being made by less than perfect voices and at times quite out of tune, in spite of the fact that the ministers probably did not hold doctorates in divinity, and there were no huge drives or programs announced encouraging people to take part, worship rose off the lips of those dear people. They were there for one pure motive: They wanted to worship their God. The ministers were there for one pure motive: They truly loved this group of elderly saints who had come to worship their God. Songs were sung, scripture read, prayers were prayed, and it was all done in the midst of a handful of people gathered in a multipurpose room with a piano. Simple, to the point, and from the heart. PROFOUND. And they were all dismissed in time to take their places in the dining hall for lunch at 11:30!
Needless to say, I enjoyed Sunday worship today and I'm sure I'll be back. But what I'd also really like to do now is attend a party in this very room, and see how many of these folks will roll out onto that dance floor and shake a leg -- or maybe just a foot or a hand, if that's all they're able to shake!
I don't doubt for one minute it could happen.
Posted by CC
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