United Church Homes
2015 Annual Gathering Premier Partner
A Musical Inspiration
Imagine being trapped inside your own body, your connections to your memories and people you hold dear muddled and confused. For many Ohioans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, this is their world. But what if something as simple as a song could change that? Consider the story of Henry: https://youtu.be/fyZQf0p73QM
The inspiration was contagious following the private viewing of the award winning film, ALIVE INSIDE, in October 2014 by the leadership of United Church Homes. The film documents the work of Dan Cohen and the results that he was seeing when he provided music in personal play lists through iPods and headphones to older adults living in health care institutions. Cohen has since founded the non-profit, Music and Memory, to help provide music to elders across the country.
By the end of 2014, a UCH donor had given the funds for all six of UCH’s retirement communities to be Music and Memory certified. As a part of our own integration into this opportunity to help transform aging, it was decided that we would secure the rights to show the film at each community. Through our CHALICE partner program, we invited our friends, volunteers, donors and congregations to see the moving witness of the power of music to help overcome the confusion and isolation of dementia. Just as the film shares the story of how music is being used in care communities, it also documents the stories of two families and how music has shaped their care of loved ones who have been able to remain in their own homes. We wanted to share this story through the CHALICE partner program to show how this might also be used in churches and individual homes.
Trinity UCC in Wooster, Ohio was one of the congregations that received the invitation to view the movie last May at Chapel Hill Community in Canal Fulton, Ohio. Inspired themselves, the staff and members who were present returned home and set a plan in motion. With seed money from their church’s endowment, they have purchased iPods, headphones and music for 10 members.
They also shared the movie with members of the congregation and will be showing it to their Youth Group at the end of September. Incorporated in their plan, the youth will help with the identification of the music for each of the designated member’s personal play list and the downloading of the songs and teaching the elders how to use the new iPods. The plan is for the youth to follow up with monthly visits.
Initial research is suggesting that just 3 thirty minute sessions per week can help produce increased cognitive function in individuals with dementia symptoms. Music may not bring about a cure, but Music and Memory’s hope is that it allows points of connection for the elders and for those around them as the music “opens” pathways in the brain that are able to bypass areas debilitated by the dementia itself.
Stay tuned as we learn from Trinity’s experience in Wooster with Music and Memory and the impact it has on their congregation and families.
Equipping Future Pastors
Beginning the first week of October, 2015, United Church Homes will be providing the fourth “unit” or “class” of students in the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program at Trinity Community in Beavercreek, Ohio. Completing at least one “unit” of CPE is more often than not, a requirement of church and ministry committees for individuals who are discerning a call to ministry. Most CPE programs are located in a hospital or hospice settings. Hallmarks of CPE are that the student is learning in the midst of a small group of peers who are under the supervision of an ACPE certified clinical pastoral educator as they learn about and explore their calling and understanding of their pastoral role and authority. The program at Trinity is only one of two in the Ohio that offers the CPE experience in a setting whose mission is to care for elders.
While students make their journey through seminary, they will have opportunities to study various aspects of ministry with children. They will have many opportunities for field placement settings and internships that focus on ministry with youth. But rarely, will they have the opportunity to experience and learn about the spiritual journey of elders—those in the second half of life. This is one of the best gifts of the CPE program to these future ministers and to the church.
Likewise, Trinity Community is enriched by the presence of the students. “One unpredictable outcome of the CPE program has been its life giving impact on Trinity community residents,” writes Rev. Greta Wagner, Director of Pastoral Care and Clinical Pastoral Education at Trinity. “Our elders have taken ownership of and deep value in their part to foster formation of pastoral students. They welcome Chaplain Interns of every age and background at their bedsides in nursing care and apartments in the retirement center. For most, the set sojourn that limits CPE student’s time here has been received as an opportunity to nurture learners and then set them free with hope for their futures and a sense of having contributed to the ministers they will become.”
Not only are the students learning how to be present at the bedside, they develop pastoral relationships with the same individuals who come to the worship services that the students plan and lead, they make pastoral calls and lead bible study —just like in the local church setting. In fact, Rev. Wagner writes, “CPE has enlivened the residents’ interest in worship led by diverse students from a multitude of religious backgrounds. Residents from differing denominations and cultures seem to come to life with new energy and focus when CPE students are present.”
A recent student in Trinity’s CPE program has been accepted into a CPE Residency program. Some seminary CPE students have discerned a chaplaincy focus after graduation. The majority of students will utilize CPE to provide competent pastoral care in their calls to local church ministry. Given the fact that today there are more people over the age of 65 in the state of Ohio than there are children in school, United Church Homes is thrilled to be providing this opportunity to help expand the education of these future pastors to the range of needs of the older adults who are a part of their future congregations.