There are three other places in town that I’ve preached at most often besides TEMC. One is Upper Canada College for its chapel service. The second is Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto. The third is Christie Gardens, where a number of our elderly members live and worship in chapel once a week. I got to preach there again recently and was struck how much I learned.
The first “official” person I met at Christie was a volunteer named Barry. His job seemed to be to push wheelchairs around. He calls himself “Barry the pusher”! He and the chaplain there, John Duyck, rustle up a congregation each time I’m there. I mean this quite literally: they go and knock on doors and physically wheel people into chapel. We start a bit late for it, but by the time we start, there are people there. I feel like we could learn from this back at the mothership at TEMC.
There is a joke you may have heard about the visitor to the nursing home who was there to see someone struggling with memory loss. He asked her, “Don’t you remember who I am?” She said, “No, dear. But the woman at the desk usually knows.” Memory loss is painful, no doubt, but it does help to keep one’s sense of humour. And those diagnosed with memory maladies are not the only forgetful ones. As I went to leave Christie Gardens, Rev. Duyck came up to me with my journal. Perhaps you’ve seen I’m nearly always scribbling in that thing, and when I’ve lost journals I’ve lost weeks worth of irreplaceable notes. “Looks like you forgot this,” he said. We all need a little help from our friends.
It is striking to see the deeply humanizing devices we have today to help our elder friends. The wheelchairs. The walkers. The wheels that help people navigate the world far better than their forebears who reached similar ages. It is also striking to hear people sing who do not otherwise engage with others very much. There is a place in our soul that is reached by music that seems unreachable by more linear content and information. I hope to live long enough that not all my faculties function like they once did. And I hope when that happens, I can still sing praise to God, even if I can’t remember my own name, or anyone else’s.
Any other retirement homes out there in need of a midweek preacher at 10 AM on a weekday? I keep learning things from experiences like this.