Religion and Spirituality
July 28, 2016
As seniors seek to find community and purpose in their golden years after a long career, many are drawn to religious-based activities that enrich their hearts and minds, and work toward a higher calling. Parkway Place, a faith-based, Buckner Retirement Services senior living community, has many residents who worked as ministers, missionaries or in other faith-based positions, and brings the idea of caring for their residents' spiritual wellness to a whole new level through the use of a full-time chaplain. In this role, the chaplain regularly visits residents to see how God is working in their lives during their senior years. Parkway Place's Chaplain, John Bender, joined the senior living community in April and has already been hard at work getting to know the residents. In his role, he is enhancing the already robust program that many of the residents lead and participate in.
Bender previously served seniors while working as an education minister and administrator for a church in Center, Texas. While this is his first chaplain position, his passion for working with seniors has guided him for much of his career.
"They have a lot to give, even if they don't realize it," said Bender. "Their life experience is so valuable these people have raised children, sometimes grandchildren, and they are wise, compassionate and truly love life. They are so fun to talk with and learn from, and I'm here at Parkway Place to go through life alongside them as a friend. My goal is to help and serve them as people. I want them to continue to feel valuable and purposeful in all they do and work with them to see how God reveals that to them."
Throughout each week, Parkway Place schedules various types of religious activities for its residents. Each Sunday afternoon, a non-denominational service is held at the senior living community. Two residents who are retired ministers, Paul Smith and Bill Hinson, each lead one service a month. Residents Joan Varner and Lavonia Duck use their talents to add piano music to each week's service.
Bender also coordinates with churches in the area such as St. John Vianney Catholic Church to offer a rosary and communion service each week and mass one time a month. Emmanuel Episcopal Church also sends its reverend to visit the community and provide services for Episcopalian residents. Parkway Place also coordinates with local churches, like Tallowood Baptist Church, Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church and Memorial Drive Methodist Church, who send buses to pick up residents to attend their Sunday school and church services.
Residents have also created their own prayer and Bible study groups to take time to get to know one another, share their lives, learn and teach the Bible, and pray for one another. Resident Paul Smith feels that these meetings are important to the residents at Parkway Place as a whole, especially to him and his wife, Virginia, who both attended seminary school and served as missionaries in the Middle East for decades.
"I enjoy continuing to be involved in ministry after formally retiring from it, and feel that I'm writing some of the best sermons I've ever written," said Smith. "I tailor my sermon topics to the residents here and address issues that people our age deal with or may have questions about. Living at Parkway Place has allowed my wife and me to still connect with people and be used by God. There is such a fantastic community of genuine residents and staff at Parkway Place, and we truly share life together, not just live here together."
While Parkway Place's weekly services are not open to the public, those interested in a closer look at life at Parkway Place can attend the weekly services by contacting Chaplain John Bender at 281-677-5917.