Seniors and Shut-ins Communion and Lunch
Pastoral care of our seniors and shut-ins by visiting
them regularly is a valued ministry of our churches and congregations. There is often an effort to specifically visit around Easter and Christmas, and to ensure that all those that wish to commune are able to. This can create added stress to an already busy schedule. But instead of going and visiting each person individually, what about bringing as many of the people together for a service of Holy Communion? This has been tried at All Saints Lutheran Church in Guelph three times now and already has become a valued ministry.
The idea is simple – invite all of your seniors and shut-ins to a worship service that is held around lunch time. After the service, serve a light lunch, where they can continue their fellowship with each other.
The order for worship is simple and encourages participation of everyone. Use hymns that are familiar and even those who have difficulty holding a book or reading the words will be able to sing or hum along. Some people may want to participate by singing a special song, playing the organ for a hymn, reading a lesson or leading a prayer. At our most recent communion and lunch, one gentleman sang a beautiful rendition of “The Holy City” a cappella. Inviting everyone to pray the Prayer of the Day and the Post Communion Prayer together makes all feel included. Here is the order of service that was used – adapt this to your own local context:
Prayer of the Day (said by all)
Hymn of the Day
Words of Institution
Distribution of Holy Communion
Prayer after Communion (said by all)
After the Sending Song, the Table Grace was said, before the people moved to their lunch. Here are a few more practical considerations to think about:
- It has worked well for us to plan the worship time around lunch. Many of our senior members find Sunday morning worship difficult to get to – their bodies just don’t want to work that early in the morning, but by lunch they are ready to go. It also allows them to get home early afternoon and rest before the evening meal.
- Arrangements were made to assist each person to attend. Many family members were happy to help out, but people in the congregation were also asked to help. They would pick the person up, sit with them during the service and lunch and then drive them home. That person or couple was their only responsibility.
- Think about how you will serve communion. At our first communion and lunch, we learned a good lesson. We thought that it would be good to have everyone near the front of the church, so removed a book rack in front of the first pew to make room for walkers and wheelchairs. Everyone sat in the second pew or farther back – they wanted something in front of them to help them stand! Now people are placed at the end of pews throughout the church and we try to keep an empty pew between each row where people are sitting. This allow the pastor to move between pews and reach each person. What will work best in your place of worship?
- Be aware of the varying needs of each person communing: Some can take both bread and wine from the common cup, others will want to intinct their bread and others will need you to intinct the bread for them and place it directly into their mouths. Take your time. We’ve found that the people are so happy to be there and appreciate the care given to each person.
- Think carefully about the best place to serve the lunch. The usual place may not be the best. In our situation, the narthex has worked perfectly. The day before the lunch, volunteers come and clear out any extra furniture, then card tables and chairs are set up, leaving lots of room for walkers and wheelchairs. Having everything on one level for our guests has worked well. Yes, the kitchen is downstairs so there is some lugging of food and beverages, but the focus is on our guests.
- Yes, we have used the “good” dishes, especially the tea cups. Our guests are worth it.
- Lunch is simple – a few cut-up vegetables and pickles, and crackers and cheese are on the tables. Sandwiches, coffee, and tea are served, followed by a sweet tray.
- The lunch time is as important to our guests as the worship service. They love being able to visit and reminisce with people they have not seen in a long time.
- Have enough volunteers – we have used three different shifts: Set-up the day before, welcoming and serving lunch, clean-up
What are you doing in your church to meet the needs of seniors and shut-ins? What can we learn from each other? Send any ideas and comments to: email@example.com