inistry brings worship to the nursing home-bound

Residents at Bethany Health Care & Rehabilitation Center in DeKalb look forward to Thursdays, and it's not because of bingo. Thursday is the day of the Christian non-denominational worship service offered by Christian Senior Ministry.

"You can definitely tell when it's a Thursday," activity director Sharon Fisher said. "The happy feelings that they leave with our residents, you can tell that they were here. ... Christian Senior Ministry is such a presence here. They are a bright spot during a difficult time in our residents' lives."

CSM offers Christian non-denominational worship services that are open to the public at 15 venues in DeKalb, Sycamore, Rochelle and Sandwich. CSM began in August 1999, when the Rev. George Krause of Immanuel Lutheran Church in DeKalb saw a need for a Christian presence in local nursing homes. Deacon Charles Ridulph of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John in Sycamore investigated and was shocked at what he discovered.

"There was little to no Christian influence in some of the nursing homes," Ridulph said. "Churches made calls as needed, but there were no organized Christian worship services."

Ridulph founded CSM with the goal of providing regular worship services, Bible study groups, individual visits, and Christian fellowship activities to those who are unable to attend traditional church services.

"These people have been separated and removed from the three biggest aspects of their lives: their home, church, and family," Ridulph said. "We attempt to bring it back to them. We bring them hope and the love of Christ when many are at the end of their lives."

In January of 2000, CSM began offering worship services in the nursing homes. The first week, 12 people attended the services; 26 people attended the second week. Within six months, attendance had risen to 80 people per week.

Mayor Ken Mundy of Sycamore has been involved in CSM since its beginning and is on its board of directors.

"These may be the last services these people may attend," Mundy said. "These services are important from not only a spiritual aspect, but also from a physical and fellowship standpoint. The services are especially for those who cannot get out and about on their own. It definitely brightens their days."

Each service includes prayers, Scripture readings, songs, a short sermon, and prayer requests. The songs chosen are familiar traditional Christian hymns, such as "Amazing Grace."

"It's the same face and format each week," Ridulph said. "We develop a relationship with the residents and let them know that they have someone that cares. It gives them a feeling of belonging, of fellowship."

CSM is a nonprofit volunteer organization privately funded through fundraisers by churches that support the group. On Thursday, July 17, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John in Sycamore will host a pork loin drive-thru dinner benefiting CMS. On Sunday, Sept. 28, CMS will host the Rev. Harold W. Schmidt Walk for Seniors at Walcamp in Kingston.

For more information or to donate, visit www.chsrmin.com or contact Juanita Mundy at 815-895-3819 or jemundy@frontier.com.

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