Kansas Congregation Takes ‘Church’ to the People

Post a Comment » Written on September 25th, 2008     
Filed under: News
HERNDON, KS (September 25, 2008) – Members of the Herndon Covenant Church did not hold services at their church 11 out of 14 Sundays over the summer. Instead, they held them at three local nursing homes and at a center for people with mental illness.

“Local” is a relative word, however, in this rural area just south of the Nebraska border in western Kansas.

The church sits by itself on open farmland with few homes for miles around. One of the nursing homes was nearly 13 miles west in Atwood. The other two homes were 18 miles east in Oberlin, says pastor Keith Reuther.

Over the previous two summers, the church held its regular services on Sunday mornings, and then the people would rush to the nursing homes to lead a service and other ministry. That proved exhausting, says Reuther.

In April, Reuther proposed the change in which the church would hold its regular service the first Sunday of the month, but then hold the remaining services at the nursing homes on three other Sundays. On months with fifth Sundays, the church served a meal at a center that includes residences for people with mental illnesses.

The congregation approved of the idea, although some were not sure how well it would work, he says. At the end of the summer, “They were very positive. They want to do it again.”

The residents hope they will. “They’re always thrilled when we show up,” says Reuther.

Some of the residents expressed to Reuther that the services were “real church.” Oftentimes, services at the nursing home are abbreviated and last a half hour or less, Reuther says. “We do a full service.”

He did consider the different needs of the nursing home residents when planning the service. Reuther put together a special bulletin for each Sunday that has the scripture text, hymns, and other announcements because books are too heavy for some of the residents to hold.

As many as 20 to 30 residents attended the services, Reuther says. Because the church wasn’t rushing to the facilities after its own service as in years past, they had more time to visit with the residents.

“It was a lot of fun,” Reuther says.

The church initially planned picnics for the people who live around the mental health center, but poor weather on those Sundays forced the event inside, Reuther says.

The summer experience benefited the church as well as the residents at the four other sites, Reuther says. “We were learning about what it means to be a church and not the building.”

Pastors in two Atwood churches even used the work of the Herndon congregation as sermon illustrations.

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