On Ministry with Aging

Working with an elderly congregation is a great gift. I get to hear the most amazing stories, and spend time with some truly fascinating people. The members of my congregation have been so gracious and welcoming to me and I just love them.

Today we had our Wednesday Night at Noon fellowship lunch and Bible study. The pastor had us go around and share something we were feeling joyful about. I said my niece, and them 2 different people said they were feeling joyful about me! 🙂

I’m thoroughly enjoying my time serving these people, visiting with them in their homes, rubbing my homemade anointing balm into my hands before I take their hands in mine for prayer, and gliding my freshly rosined bow across the stings as my violin hums my simple arrangements of their favorite hymns.

I’m still getting acclimated to the work and the people, and here are some musings on my first several weeks; things I’ve learned about working with senior adults.

1. Southern hospitality. When I do morning visits, I get offered at least coffee and sometimes a little snack to go with it. They always want to send me on my way with a coke or a sandwich for the road.

2. E-nun-ci-ate. I’m self aware enough to know that when I’m feeling insecure or unsure of something I’m about to say, generally for fear of being wrong or ridiculed, my voice will lift and lilt toward the end of my sentence.

In cases of age related hearing loss, high pitched noises are the first to go. I’ve been training my voice to project more, and I think that I can actually deepen it if I take the time to slow down and really think what I’m doing.

Ministering with elderly has helped me to pare down what isn’t absolutely necessary in a prayer or sermon, and to speak confidently, evenly, clearly and deeply.

3. (This one, to my chagrin, seems fairly universal among adults aged 18 to 70+) It’s weird to have a pet guinea pig.

4. A letter, phone call, or (especially) a visit makes a world of difference in the life of someone who lives alone.

5. Hymns are healing, like balm for lonely hearts. I’ve started bringing my violin along with me on my visits. This isn’t me bragging- I’m just sharing- I have a very good musical ear, and can generally play the melody line of their favorite hymns. I ask them to name a few favorites and will tailor a medley of their favorite hymns in the same key- so it’s like a good fee minutes of continuous music. It’s just as ministering to me as I hope it is to them.

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