By Bill Duckworth, Wells Church – Lay Servant Ministry
For over 20 years, Wells UMC has provided Sunday morning worship services to the residents of the Mississippi State Veterans Home on Lindbergh Drive in Jackson. A laity driven ministry sanctioned by the church’s council on ministries, the outreach provides a one hour worship service at 10:00 a.m. every Sunday in the facility’s private chapel. Residents and family members gather to sing, pray, proclaim God’s word and fellowship with one another in a structured service led currently by Wells Church lay servants, Bill and Brenda Duckworth.
The “Vet Home” ministry, as it called, originated in the 1990s when church members recognized the spiritual and emotional needs of aging veterans entering the skilled nursing home. Arriving in Jackson from all over the state to live out their final years of life caused many residents to become separated from their local community of faith. As a result, Wells opened its doors to provide worship services that allow the veterans to reconnect with a local church. Brenda leads the music and singing as she plays an electronic keyboard, guitar and accordion while Bill preaches each week from lectionary text and responsive readings. Attendees use this time to minister to the Lord, become refreshed in His presence and fellowship with new residents as they arrive to live at the Veterans Home. The participants are provided a weekly “Word Alive” bulletin with the order of service as well as a giant print edition of the Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide on a bimonthly basis.
When asked recently by a new resident, “Why does your church do this,” Bill summed up the purpose of lay servant ministry with a short story. “We had an elderly Native American resident who was faithful to attend each week although he was in pain. He would always have a smile after the service and say, ‘I felt so bad coming but I feel so good leaving. You are doing a good work. Keep it up!’ To me, that is the Gospel and at Wells, we love keeping it up.”