Marigold Nursing Home Ministry

by Jeremy Johnson

The Marigold Nursing Home Ministry is a service provided by the Licensed Lay Readers of the Grace Episcopal Church of Galesburg, Illinois. The Lay Reader reads Morning Prayer at 10:00 a.m. every Sunday. The service is a combination of Morning Prayer with the Form of Three of the Prayers of the People reproduced in large print so the residents of the home who are still able to read can respond with their part of the service. The Lay Reader also reads the Scripture Lessons for the Sunday and a homily from "Celebration, and Ecumenical Worship Response," a Roman Catholic publication.

Attendance varies from 15 to 40 people. Some residents are assisted by the nursing home staff and a staff person is present at the service. The members of the congregation have many different health conditions. Some are mentally alert and fairly healthy, some are in wheelchairs, and others are suffering from mental deterioration. Though most are elderly, a few residents, due to accidents or medical problems, are younger. They come from many religious and non-religious backgrounds. When a number of Roman Catholics attended—prior to the availability of a Roman service—a Hail Mary was part of the service.

The Rev. Thad Rudd, a former rector of Grace Church, started this ministry. I came into the church in the summer of 1974, was confirmed in January 1975, and was licensed as a Lay Reader. Almost immediately I was asked to take my turn in reading Morning Prayer at the nursing home. Until about 1990 all the Lay Readers and Chalice Bearers took a turn at least one Sunday a month. In 1990 we became short of Lay Readers so I assumed the major responsibility for reading the service.

At first I was somewhat reluctant to take on this ministry. Most of us are a little nervous about being around the conditions of people in the nursing home. We are afraid of how we are supposed to act and what to say. It is also a reminder of our own mortality and of the health conditions we may someday experience.

Because I was asked, I felt the Lord wanted me to do this. I would not have thought of doing this on my own. I found this to be a way to serve the "least of these" as Jesus says in Matthew 25:35-40, "When you visit the least of these, you have done it for me."

Many people who attend the service have expressed their appreciation for the Lay Readers coming to read the service. Almost every Sunday, several express their appreciation, and when I come they say, "I'm glad you're here." I believe the service helps the residents spiritually and the words of the service, scripture, and homily bring comfort, strength, and hope—and for some they may be the only words of Gospel they have ever heard.