This morning I lead chapel at Riverview Estates. It’s a (mostly) Baptist retirement facility down by the Delaware River. There is a special connection between Riverview and Central Baptist, many of our members have lived, worked, or volunteered down there over the years (some have even done all three) so we feel that Riverview really is part of our fellowship. It’s been hard this year because we’ve had some wonderful people at Riverview take the journey home and we all sorely miss them.
This morning, however, I almost called in sick. I’m recovering from a nasty Summer cold and can’t project my voice to speak, much less sing – I also worry about infecting people who’s immune systems are already weak. Despite my misgivings, I went down anyway, and i’m glad I did. There was a lot of encouragement to be had.
First, the woman who plays piano when I’m down brightened up when I came in and said, “Oh, I want to show you something!” She then took out a Book of Common Prayer and said, “Are you familiar with this?” When I nodded she smiled and said, the refrain you use during prayer time is there, do you know that? (After joys or concerns at Central the person leading prayer says, “Lord in your mercy” and the congregation responds, “Hear our prayer”).” When I said, “Yes” again she smiled and said, “Our new rector wanted to use different version of ‘Prayers of the People’ this week and when I saw the refrain I suddenly got it – it really meant something to me.” That really meant something to me.
Second, a nice older woman was wheeled in he her chair, looked at the accompanist and I, and said, “I love you guys.” That’s always a treat.
Third, I announced that I wouldn’t be able to sing this morning due to my cold and folks were kinda bummed. One lovely woman took up the slack and tried to make sure that everyone was singing along – which is not hard to do when half the people are nodding off!
Fourth, during prayer time a retired pastor asked for prayer that he’d continue to be formed by Jesus (I can’t remember his exact words, but that’s the gist of it). I thought that was pretty wonderful – here was a retired pastor, who took some joy knowing that he still had growing to do.
Fifth, we sang happy birthday to a 92 year old woman who may just be one of the most talented and brilliant people I’ve ever met (she taught herself to paint just a few years ago because she wanted to try something new). She’s also a retired pastor and a person I love to see.
Sixth, during my short meditation a woman (who is about as sweet as can be) kept saying things like “amen” and “hallelujah.” Now, when I often hear such call-outs during worship there’s often an undertone of, “are YOU listening?” that floats into it. This woman, however, was expressing herself out of a sense of joy and longing. It touched me deeply in worship – not that she was saying “amen” to me, but that she actually was saying it to Jesus.
Seventh, on the way out they gave me a fresh-baked cinnamon scone. How awesome is that?
If you ever get a chance to visit, work, or volunteer down at Riverview Estates – I highly recommend it. The residents are wonderful, the staff is caring, and there’s a lot of joy found there.