This January I begin my second year in ministry to the Sunrise of McCandless assisted-living facility on Lincoln Club Drive in the North Hills (off McKnight road and close to UPMC Passavant). It's hard to believe that I'm entering my second year—2017 just flew by. Many of you already know something about this ministry; others may know very little, if anything. St. Brendan's new blog feature provides a perfect mechanism to share some details about this ministry and how it came about. I hope you enjoy!
First, I want to introduce you to some of the wonderful people I serve. I call them "the usual suspects", and if you've even seen the movie "Casablanca", you’ll know where I got the phrase. All of these folks regularly attend the prayer service I lead—at least two Sundays a month at 1:15, just after their lunch. Attendance varies. I've had as few as six and as many as twenty-six. Over the past several months we've been averaging 12 to15. Occasionally, family members who are visiting resident relatives also attend the service. All are welcome. None of the people in these pictures is Episcopalian so, the prayer service needs to be ecumenical and interdenominational to serve their needs. Most attendees are Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, or Roman Catholic (the majority). Ages vary significantly. The eldest turned 100 on November 21, 2017, and she is a very regular attendee. What they all have in common is their use of walkers, canes, or wheelchairs. As such, the logistics can occasionally be a challenge, especially when there is a need to accommodate lots of wheelchairs. Many of the attendees are sight or hearing challenged (or both), so I have to make sure everything is large print and I have to remember to speak up. But these challenges are really insignificant when you consider that these people are there to pray together and worship our Lord. "When two or three are gathered in His name..."
What's important to know about this ministry is how special these people are to me. I have always had a deep respect for the elderly and a belief that they have much to teach—and we, much to learn. I have been enriched by their stories, their humor, their wisdom, their kindness, their patience, and their deep and abiding faith. What I give to them they give back tenfold.
Let me share some details about the prayer service itself. The basic format is taken from the Episcopal Morning Prayer service (BCP p. 75), followed by Communion Under Special Circumstances (BCP p. 396). This format conforms to all rubrics and was approved in late 2016 by Fr. Babcock. The prayer service has been through one major revision this past summer—to add features that keep the service interdenominational and better meet the needs of the attendees. For example, we added the Collect for Sundays at the beginning and replaced the Morning Prayer suffrages with a modified version of the Prayers of the People - Form VI. This last change was made to allow the attendees to offer their own petitions and thanksgivings. We also added the Peace. While I've had favorable feedback on the changes, I continue to listen for additional opportunities. Meeting their worship needs to the extent possible is a primary consideration for me. The attendees follow a print copy of the service enclosed in a clear plastic cover and each week I hand out print copies of the lectionary readings for that Sunday. Following the gospel, I share my reflections as a homily.
Here is a picture from the Easter Sunday prayer service to give you feel for the environment. Sunrise does not have a chapel, so we use a large common room that has lots of comfortable chairs.
So how did this ministry come about? In 2016 I trained as a LEM. I quickly learned there were limited opportunities to bring communion to others who could not attend St. Brendan's services. So I began to look for opportunities with nursing homes and assisted living facilities within a 10 miles radius of St. Brendan's. I made cold calls by phone. When I contacted Sunrise of McCandless, the administrator told me that they had just lost their pastor through a relocation and asked if I would be interested in leading a prayer service in addition to the distribution of communion. I said that I would need to discuss it with our priest and obtain permission and approval. Fr. Ted encouraged me to pursue this ministry and worked closely with me to develop the service, as I've described above.
If you would like to learn more about this ministry or you think you might like to be involved, please stop me after church or send me an email. I will be happy to share more details. You are always welcome to stop in some Sunday and attend the prayer service. Just check with me first to make sure a service is scheduled for that Sunday.
If you would like to volunteer at Sunrise, they are always in need. They offer a large variety of activities for all levels of care and ability. Volunteers can work with individuals and/or groups. They will work with you to find a schedule that accommodates both your needs and those of the residents. If you are interested, you can speak to me or contact Carrie Brooks directly here.