I am enjoying reading all of your comments.
On the issue of music I have a couple of reflections.
We needed another hymn sing according to my residents in a 200 bed facility. One a week was not enough. But where to find the time in a busy recreation, physiotherapy, and meal driven calendar. Well we decided to start a half hour early on Sunday morning and sing hymns while people are gathering for worship; it has worked really well for over three years now. The hymn seekers come early and other come in when they are ready or able to get downstairs using the elevators. We are so greatful to our volunteers for coming in earlier to facilitate this change.
Then the second service on the dementia unit also started singing 15 minutes earlier. My pianist(wife) loves the people and has a real relationship with them. She started by asking the residents and a few family members what they wanted to sing. Seems Amazing Grace and Jesus Loves Me came up every week. So she just incorporates those two in everyweek, kind of like the Intro and then asks for hymns. The residents light up and stay lit up for most of the 45 minutes from start to end of the service. Then she plays two closing songs, which she knows they like. Well those who nodded off or lost focus brighten right up to be able to sing, “You are my sunshine” and “How much is that doggie in the window.”
I think we are going for inclusion, relationship and familiarity as a base and helping these clients ease into and out of a worship service. Overall the attendance has been great and the participation levels are way up too. The families enjoy the atmosphere and the building of community this experience encourages.
The message and the other three hymns in the service are adapted for length and ability to intake information. We go for a lot of the positive encouraging message of the gospel.
Which reminds me. I would like to start a conversation about how the readings we have done thus far in the course seem to encourage a call for Christian chaplains to share about the foundation of their work and reference to the Scriptures behind the concepts. Example someone wrote imago dei and of course we know in Scripture where that is found; but I would like to hear more about how any of us might be using scripture, sharing and proclamation to address our clients getting into their deepest feelings, finding their deepest sense of meaning and joy, and moving from despair to adventures in grace.
In my context I have never pushed a person to believe something they didn’t want to believe. But I feel it is important to point out there is access to resources from our Christian tradition that they may not ever heard about. And I’m not talking about just quoting the Bible, but addressing their issues from the psychological, social and cultural perspectives and Also from the spirituality from the specific passages and overarching message of the Bible. Example I have a long term relationship with a client who has both Aboriginal spirituality and a Roman Catholicism within his experience. He likes exploring the differences and the dynamics. When he sees that he has done all he can through working things out and doing the traditions he is open to where the Creator doesn’t leave us, but joins us and does the work we could not do. He was moved when I read, “It is finished.” The word from the cross gives what we never could get on our own.
At times in the 22 years here in Long term care I have felt constrained to not be “religious” as critics call it with disdain in the tone of their voice. But I have also felt I would be letting people down and not offering the best of my profession: to believe in and share the Good News in specific and wider ways; through the stories of redemption, rescue, healing, etc. The balance has been to be able to do all of the services, funerals, and hymn sings and bible studies where this content is expected, and to also share on a chaplain to client level the same message but in a way that wasn’t demanding, demeaning, misleading, trickery or any of the things Christian counselling or evangelism are thought to entail.
One of the sad things over the years is I haven’t found authors who can excite and inform like the ones we have read these last two weeks and do so in ways that integrate and utilize our practical Theological insights, tools, and passion for caring. I sought out voices doing counselling like Robert Kelleman and with some work have found an avenue for expressing myself within my profession that brings comfort and encouragement, even life change to some and openness to relationship with many many others.
Oh I know its Thursday night before a long weekend. Maybe you will just move on to week three. But I hope for dialogue, learning, sharing and growing together.
Thank you for the opportunity to begin this conversation.