St. Alban's Stealth Ministry
[adapted from the September 2004 Word]
St. Alban’s ‘stealth’ ministry: Sleepy Hollow Manor Nursing Home
Did you know?? On any given Sunday, some 10-15% of our fellow congregants are worshippers who've never 'darkened the door' at St. Alban's. How can than be, you might ask. Please read on.
Most of us weren't around some 40 years ago, when several St. Alban's parishioners inaugurated a worship ministry for residents of the Sleepy Hollow Manor Nursing Home (SHMNH), our neighbors two blocks away. I suspect many of you -- newcomers and old-timers, alike -- have little or no awareness that this ministry even exists. That's understandable . . . unless you're an avid reader of assignment schedules appearing in this publication or printed in the weekly service leaflet. Given that the ministry doesn't have a separate line item in the budget and functions exclusively off-site, it has tended to operate almost invisibly from the outset. Yet, via two worship services each Sunday (10 and 11 AM), a relatively small cadre of volunteers has brought the 'Good News' to hundreds of SHMNH residents well over 4,000 times in those 40+ years! Some 50-60 parishioners have participated in this ministry since its inception.
Less two Holy Eucharist services, celebrated on one Sunday each month by the Assistant Rector, the services at SHMNH tend to follow the model for Morning Prayer in the BCP, although they are 'billed' as being non-denominational Protestant. One notable addition to the usual Morning Prayer service is the singing of several hymns which, as one might imagine, tend to run toward 'old favorites.' All in all, the services are intended -- and to some extent designed -- simply to afford the residents the weekly opportunity to hear the familiar Scriptures read; to reaffirm their faith by reciting the Creed; to offer prayers for their own needs and those of others; and to 'make a joyful noise' in their praise to God. That some 20 residents routinely make the effort to attend one of the two Sunday services (and for most of them it's truly an effort) attests to their desire to have such an opportunity. One is often put in mind of the Gospel passage describing the paralyzed man on the litter whose friends lowered him through a roof opening merely to hear the 'Good News.'
It's perhaps no surprise that I Love to Tell the Story is high on the residents' list of favorite hymns. If you 'love to tell the story,' we have a place for you in this ministry -- and you thereby already meet the single most important criterion for becoming a participant. Your involvement can take a variety of forms: from full-fledged lay reader, to musical accompanist (piano or Hammond-type organ), to assisting in a variety of ways. No formal training is necessary, but you'd have ample opportunity for repetitive OJT in the company of several current participants before 'solo-ing.' The time commitment is minimal: even at our current 'staffing' level, we're talking about an hour on one Sunday morning every 5-6 weeks.
Just as you'd be unlikely to buy a car on say-so, without a test drive, why not come along as an observer some Sunday -- no strings attached. Simply give me a ring (703-490-4934) or an e-mail (email@example.com), and I'd be delighted to arrange it.
--- David Bell