Bringing the Good News - Issue #110
One of the loneliest places in many communities at Christmas is a nursing home or a skilled nursing facility. Yet many residents, often unable to go home or to visit with family members during the holidays, are faithful Christians. Secular parties are often celebrated in these residential settings, but residents also need to hear the "tidings of great joy" and to be invited to "hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!"
Shiloh United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, is intentional in its ministry with nursing home residents. The congregation holds an alternative Christmas Eve worship service each year at a local nursing home. Planning begins in early fall as the church sends a cordial letter to both the nursing home director and the activities director offering to provide a Christmas Eve worship service followed by a simple reception. After confirmation with the nursing home, the congregation begins developing plans for a 2 p.m. worship service on Christmas Eve. The service is designed to be about half an hour in length, avoiding mealtimes and not conflicting with the church's other Christmas Eve services.
Shiloh recruits a team, including musicians and singers, as well as Scripture readers and someone who will tell the Christmas story in a brief meditation. Other congregational members are invited to provide cookies (without nuts) and punch. Families and individuals in the congregation are encouraged to participate in the Christmas Eve service at the nursing home. With relatively simple planning, this alternative service has become a blessing for the nursing home residents and staff as well as for the congregation.
Some Questions for Discussion
- Who are the people in your community who cannot attend a Christmas service because of their circumstances? How could you take a service to them?
- Where are the lonely places in your community? Particularly in Advent and the Christmas Season, how can your congregation bring hope to these places?
- In what ways is your congregation intentional in ministry with members who are limited in their ability to leave their homes or who live in nursing homes?