Worship Leaders At Area Care Facilities

“There’s an old saying…old pastors never quit!” said Rev. Milt Stahl about his role leading worship services at area care facilities over the past 12 years.  He estimates, since joining the church in 1998 and beginning as a worship service volunteer at nursing homes in 2000, that he has made hundreds of visitations.

Joining Milt is Herm Tanis, who co-facilitates this type of worship at area rest homes.  Herm began doing this volunteer work in 1993 and, now, after 19 years of service — he still enjoys preparing sermons and singing.  Herm said, “Milt always plays the keyboard and I always lead the singing.  We alternate and prepare months ahead of time around who will give the message at the upcoming services.”

New to this role of leading worship at nursing homes is Joy Shimp.  She began by leading a first service for persons living with Alzheimer’s disease and a second service for all other patients at the Resthaven facility in Holland on the third Sunday of the month.  She begins worship with joys and concerns, shares a hymn, an Introit, Scripture and sermon.  Each service lasts for 30 minutes and patients enjoy her involvement.

Joy says, “I’m a nurse and I think that helps me greatly.  Also, we can be great prayer warriors, show people kindness and be a witness to others, even if someone is in a wheelchair.”

This unique worship volunteer program is organized through LOVE, INC.  Herm Tanis remembers when UMCD member Karen Hodge was the church secretary and originally in charge of it.  The program has grown over the years and now there are 25 churches from the area involved. Each church is responsible for sending forth volunteers, on a rotational basis, to lead worship at the following facilities:  Chestnut Fields, Christian Haven, Grand Pines, Heartwood Lodge, Oak Crest Manors, Pinewood, Riverside, Robbinswood, Sanctuary at the Shore, and Seville/Simarron.

Milt Stahl and Herm Tanis go once or twice a month to area facilities. Milt says, “We call what we do a church service, because we bring in the written Word and have music.  I do this as a continuation of my ministry on behalf of the Church of the Dunes, where Katherine and I attend.”

Milt feels the most rewarding aspect of this volunteer ministry is its ties to the mission of the church.  He says, “Herm and I are doing local missionary ministry here to people who need help.  Some people go to foreign countries and other places to do missions but we do this locally because we see the need here.”

How and why did Herm Tanis get involved?  He experienced a call from God to do this work, after completing his Stephen Ministry training.  He said, “I walked with a person going through a divorce for a year and then I began volunteering as a worship leader at rest homes.  I got originally involved at Spring Lake Wesleyan Church when I attended there and in 1993, when Karen and I joined the Dunes, I continued doing this service.”

Herm feels that he is making a difference in someone’s life by the reactions he receives from the residents.  “They are interested and attentive in the Commons where we do this ministry.  One of the caregivers at the rest home asked me to let her know if Milt and I can’t be there on a given Sunday because the residents get really upset if the worship leader doesn’t show up.”

Herm joins Milt once a month, or 12 times a year, to lead the worship experience.  Occasionally, they will do a Wednesday sermon at Christian Haven Home.  The format they use is beginning with an introduction of themselves, opening with a prayer, singing songs, sharing Scripture, singing more songs and offering a Benediction.

Herm says, “I have a little book I go by to prepare my sermons.  It’s called, God Is in the Small Stuff,” (by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz).  “I find what Scripture goes with the devotions and I prepare the message based upon that.”

When Herm or Milt cannot lead a worship service, they call on UMCD member Don Woodward for help.  Don is a Stephen Minister, as well.

“On occasion, there is a resident at one of the facilities who can play the piano.  Recently, one of our UMCD members who lives at Christian Haven played the piano for us.  I went there with the intention of singing ‘a capella,’ and when I saw her she said she could play for the service.  So I took her up on that,” said Herm.

Milt Stahl also feels blessed that the church offers, as part of its congregational care ministry, a whole team of people who visit the homebound.  They make periodic visits to church members with limited mobility.  Milt says, “Besides Herm, we have Bonnie Buckley and her group of people who go out to do missional ministry work like this, which is so helpful.”

Besides our church, others in the area, including Covenant Life, St. Matthew’s Lutheran, First Reformed, Second CRC, Grand Haven Community Baptist Church, Grand Haven Presbyterian, Church of the Nazarene and more—prove that the worship service volunteer ministry we offer is in high demand.  This inter-denominational approach brings peace, hope and joy to so many people who seek the blessings of others through this type of care.  It is not only good for our members but for others living in the Tri-City region.

Anyone wishing to get involved in the worship service volunteer ministry should contact LOVE, INC. at:  616/846-2701.

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