Beautiful Riverview

This morning I’m leading chapel down at Riverview Estates, a local assisted living facility for which I’m privileged to serve on the Board 1. By the time chapel begins there might be 15 people there, and over the years the faces have changed – a lot. Some folks will sing with great joy and exuberance, some with share touching prayer concerns for friends and family and the world, and some will fall asleep in their wheelchairs 2. A lot of pastors would probably grumble at needing to give up a Thursday morning to minister to such a small group of people.

I love it.

I’ve never done CPE. To be honest, the prospect of CPE terrifies me. Being forced to meet that many new people and establish something resembling a relationship in such a narrow scope of time is not something I’m wired to do 3. Typically speaking, “nursing homes” freak me out – and leading chapel at them causes me great anxiety.

Riverview is different, and for a number of reasons.

First is it’s proximity to Central. I can walk or bike there, and often do. This nearness has allowed me to develop relationships with both residents and staff over the nearly twelve years I’ve been at Central. I’ve gotten to pace myself, and as a result Riverview isn’t a place of anxiety but a place in which I am a part.

Second, because Riverview is attached to the same denominational region as Central, a good number of residents worship with Central Baptist. This has helped me develop some wonderful friendships over the years. It’s also opened me up to much sorrow as well, as I’ve had to say goodbye to many residents over the years, but their friendships have helped make me a better disciple.

Third, the spirit at Riverview is amazing. I’ve been to many assisted living facilities where I immediately feel depression and hopelessness. So much so that it’s all I can do to not run out of the facility with tears and trembling 4. Riverview is by no means a utopian paradise, but within it’s boundaries there is real life. The community has many people who want to do things and make other people experience joy. In my years as part of this home I’ve met people who decided to learn to paint in their 80’s. I’ve been embraced by people who see me with my iPad and say, “Oh, I want one of those 5.” I’ve Wii-Bowled with residents 6, eaten with them in the dining room, and been privileged to serve them meals in their rooms when they were sick. I’ve even had one resident threaten to take my bicycle for a ride when I wasn’t looking, she’s never lived that one down.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve these lovely people, both staff and residents. It’s been a big part of my pastoral ministry. I suppose there will be some who might scoff at me spending so much time “chaplaining yesterday,” instead of “rising up a new generation.” Given my penchant for technology I’m sure there are some who might assume I think that way 7, I don’t. I’m not “chaplaining yesterday,” nor do I believe immersing myself in Riverview is somehow detrimental to “raising up a new generation.” Whether at Central or down at Riverview I see the body of Christ, in all it’s messy wonder, and get to part of a beautiful story – young, old, or in-between.

  1. I’m not sure what business I have being on the Board, to be honest, but it’s something I’m honored to do. 
  2. There even used to be a wonderful woman who used to ask me at every chapel, “Do you know who I am?” 
  3. “Get to know you games” is a personal nightmare of mine. Extroverts are weird. 
  4. That’s not an exaggeration, by the way. 
  5. And then she learned the joys of iMessage. 
  6. And I won by 1 pin. It was for a league, don’t make that face. 
  7. When I first got to Central there were some people who were alarmed by both my personality and age. I’m sarcastic by nature, use teachable moments to cut through the fog of self-deception, and wanted to alter worship. Some of these folks assumed, because of past experience, “Pastor doesn’t like old people.” I can honestly this accusation stung me more deeply than I have ever experienced. My greatest hero, to this day, is my Paternal Grandfather – Pop Pop. I spent my youth soaking in his love and wisdom and, despite some teenage detours, continue in many of his lessons.