We have gone to places yet unknown, trusting in a God who leads and a Spirit who prays when our own words cease. Mother’s Day 2020 was the beginning of many outbreaks at the Leamington (Ont.) Mennonite Home, where I serve as chaplain.
In my role with Mennonite Church Eastern Canada as a regional ministry associate, I connect with the chaplains of the regional church. During this past year, I have heard courageous stories of chaplains and residents.
Sent home in the beginning of the pandemic, many chaplains connected with residents by phone, to pray with them and share Scripture, always aware that in every conversation three are present: resident, chaplain and God. In May 2020, I went back to work within the facility. It felt strange to enter a workplace that had undergone such dramatic changes.
Communal worship, once a place of gathering to listen, learn, and lean into each other and onto God, had ceased due to infection control. But God did not cease to be present in our midst. We found creative ways to engage, encourage and bring the message of God to the people we serve.
Instead of gathering in groups, chaplains turned to new ways of reminding residents of the presence of God. Communion tables received wheels and rolled down hallways. The communion table became a visible reminder that we serve a God who travels and walks with us, reminding us that nothing can separate us from God. It gave us courage.
Donations of audio Bibles and headsets brought God’s work to the vision-impaired people who missed the communal Bible reading. Pianos received wheels and the sound of a hymn coming down the hallway lifted the spirits of residents and staff. In time, congregations recorded worship and, for the first time in years, some residents joined their congregation in worship.
At times, chaplains performed duties outside of their regular routine, and they continued to serve the people, helping with meals, screening visits or calling families to tell them how their loved one is doing.
“Several people have moved for the sake of their spouse’s needs, a decision made out of love, a commitment to walk with one another through whatever is ahead,” a chaplain said.
Staff and chaplains meet them at the door and, through the layers of personal protective equipment, God’s presence shines through.
Seniors have shown nothing but courage. They embraced the reality of wearing masks and endured endless restrictions. One resident said to me, “What would we do without our faith?”
We continue to travel on a road, unsure of where it leads us, into a new land. There have been many changes, but speaking of God never ceased. At times, it felt like a small triumph when yet another way was found to engage and bring good news to the people of God.
Thank you to the many chaplains of MC Eastern Canada and MC Canada who continue to serve in institutions, following the call to ministry and listening to God’s voice.