Indifference is not characteristic of the liturgy
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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Rethinking Homebound Visits

It can be difficult for a pastor to change a practice that he instituted himself. Perhaps that stems from not wanting to be wrong or appearing to be wrong. Perhaps that stems from not knowing how to explain that he was wrong or did something that was not the best practice and now why he thinks what he now plans on doing is. Whatever the case, I think we need to find a way to do this.

Once case where I’m coming up against this is in homebound visits. From the time I started making homebound visits, I always did a spoken service. I would have sheets prepared with the Order of Service to give to those who desired them, or they would simply speak it along with me. The Order of Service was shortened, much like what you will find in the Pastoral Care Companion under “Communion for the Sick and Homebound.”

The problem was that it was always clunky and awkward. They couldn’t follow along on the printed sheets because there were always parts that weren’t printed out. They would get confused about what part of the liturgy we were at. They always said the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, but often that is all. They would try to participate, but after some frustration would give up and simply listen.

Then a friend of mine suggested that I just sing it. I asked him for some clarification. He said just do the whole service straight from the hymnal, and sing it the way you would do it in church. That’s how they’re used to doing it, he said, so do it like that with them.

I was skeptical. I always sung a hymn with those I visited. But the whole service? I thought they’d be embarrassed. But I was wrong. I visited my homebound members last month and did just as my friend suggested. None of them were embarrassed. None of them were confused about where we were in the service. And many of them were actually able to participate better because they knew the words as they were connected to the tune. Not all of them sang along with me, but some did. But they all knew where we were in the liturgy. So if they were just listening to me sing the liturgy, they were listening more actively and were aware of what was going on. This was especially true of those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. I offer them a hymnal, but none of them took me up on that. Some of them didn’t start singing with me, but by the end of the service, they ended up joining me.

So, I was wrong about that. I think it would be a better practice just to sing the service to them as they have come to know it in church. And that’s what I plan to do going forward.

What do you all do for your homebound visitations? Do you sing the whole service to them? Or do you do a shortened form of the Divine Service? Do you sing at all with your homebound members? What have you found that works well for those you serve? Drop your comments and thoughts below.