A fresh perspective on worshipping outdoors with people living with dementia
Chichester Anna Chaplaincy has been reflecting on the value of what they have been doing to enable care home residents to enjoy church services 'en plein air', in a Thought for the Day (Sunday 16 August).
Of a service at Westhampnett House with Mary, LouLou (the Anna Chaplain) and Mary on 13 August, coordinator David Cooke writes:
The residents, all wheelchair users, had to be arranged in a line of thin shade, provided by trees just out of shot to the right of this image (see middle image above).
Many people might think that we are wasting our time and energy leading worship services for wheelchair users and people who are living with dementia. And indeed sometimes it is disheartening, when there seems to be no response, when the atmosphere is heavy and we feel like we’re wading through porridge.
Karl Barth wrote this:
The object of creation… is to be the theatre of God’s glory. The meaning is that God is being glorified. Doxa, Gloria, means quite simply to become manifest. God will is to be visible in the world, and to that extent creation is a significant action of God. Barth, K, Dogmatics in Outline (SCM Press, 1947)
And as recorded in the book of Genesis, God saw that it was good. We can thus confidently say that this is a good theatre!
So we are witnesses of God’s glory, observers of his theatre; we are witnesses of this glory. But in his grace we are also actors in it, our very nature – for we are made in his image – encouraging and enthusing (from the Greek en theos, 'in God') us to be mini-creators of scenes in his theatre, for good or ill, according to our free will.
And more, because we embody 'God’s mystery, Christ in us, the hope of glory' (Colossians 1:27).
So here we are, presenting God, representing God, being good and doing good, in God’s theatre, before a cloud of witnesses, most of whom are unseen by us (Hebrews 12:1).
Is it worth it? Of course it is!
And then to cap it all, we get moments of encouragement. A smile from Mary; a sly grin from Mavis; Joan joining in with the Lord’s Prayer, some comments from Heather, a gesture from Nigel.
And all of this event, this scene, taking place outside, in open-air theatre, where the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).
We are sweating in our masks, we are struggling to be heard, we are baking in the heat.
Is it worth it?
Blessings and love to you all,