It is a calling for the spiritually mature to serve and the less mature to grow.

Few people willingly visit convalescent hospitals and rest homes. Rarely does anyone enter such an establishment unless there is a close friend or relative within. Frequently the last stop before death, most patients are over 60, confined to wheelchairs or their beds, and many have lost touch with reality. Many patients have outlived their close friends and relatives and are all alone in the world. Others have families so busy with their own lives that they take time only rarely for the elderly inmate. The elderly often find themselves imprisoned by their ailing bodies and minds, condemned to live out a colorless existence within institutional walls.

Some progressive convalescent facilities do try to help those with still-active minds, and plan activities for those who can still get around. But staffs and funds are limited; the largest chunk of an institution’s budget must go for overhead (housing, laundry, food, staff salaries). Larger facilities usually hire a social director to oversee social functions, but in many smaller facilities this is handled by the administrator or a secretary. To a hospital administrator, church services are a social function, and unless owned by a church group, few convalescent facilities have their own chaplains.

In most communities, a few of the larger churches send teams to the local hospitals, usually the larger and “nicer” (cleaner and fancier) of the local facilities. Most of these have more than one denomination offering their services. A few denominations also send ministers or priests to visit their own patients. But many patients have no ties to any particular church, although they consider themselves Christians. ...

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