The congregation gathers for Worship for the Soul, a service designed for those who experience memory loss, at First United Methodist Church, Glen Ellyn, Ill. COURTESY PHOTO
Bill had a hard time remembering where he put his belongings, names of loved ones and some major events in the past. However, he remembered the words to "Amazing Grace" and The Lord's Prayer. Bill attends the Worship for the Soul service at First United Methodist Church in Glen Ellyn, Ill.
Worship for the Soul is designed for those who experience memory loss. "We are conscious of the people who have dementia and Alzheimer's disease, and we find different ways to connect with them through songs," said the Rev. Kristen J. Larsen, senior pastor. "These songs, along with Psalm 23 and The Lord's Prayer, are deep in their belly."
Worship for the Soul began in November 2005 when the church's former pastor, the Rev. Bob Lesher, saw a need and had a passion to reach out to older adults who were having problems with memory loss. He and Mary Shafer, activities and volunteer coordinator at Sunrise Senior Living, started the service, which takes place in the sanctuary of First Church.
Shafer said participants experience a sense of connection when they sit in the church pews, view the stained-glass windows, see the pastor in a robe, sing hymns and recite certain Scripture verses. "Many of them grew up in the church, and the sights and sounds ... provoke and spark memories," she said. Some will yell out during the service or walk around. That is perfectly fine with Larsen and the church volunteers.
The morning worship service is held the third Wednesday of every month. It started with 10 participants and now has more than 50 in attendance. In addition to music and prayers, Larsen engages worshippers in a sensory activity that ties with her message.
The Rev. Kristen J. Larsen, senior pastor, leads a Worship for the Soul service. COURTESY PHOTO
After the worship, participants are encouraged to have refreshments arranged by a longtime church member Pat Johansen. Buses, caregivers and family members transport many of the worshippers to the service. Caregivers also may attend.
"It's a beautiful thing," Larsen said. "I love this service and have come to love the people very much."
AT A GLANCE
First United Methodist Church | 424 Forest Ave., Glen Ellyn, IL 60137 | 630-469-3510 | [email protected] | www.gefumc.org | Senior Pastor: Rev. Kristen J. Larsen | Average Attendance: 137 | Northern Illinois Conference
"It Worked for Us" is written by Christine Kumar, freelance writer and administrator, Baltimore Metropolitan District, Baltimore-Washington Conference.
Originally published in Interpreter Magazine, May–June, 2014.