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Couple Brings Church to County Manor
Lamar and Rose Kipp, members of the Moxie Community Church, are not unusual for reaching out to residents of the Bradford County Manor, the county nursing home, on behalf of their church one Sunday every month. What makes them unusual is that, with just a few exceptions you can count on the fingers of one hand, they have been doing it regularly for almost 27 years.
Lamar is a deacon with the church and recently retired this summer as a counselor with the Bradford County Board of Public Assistance after 32 years of service. Rose is a retired English teacher at Wyalusing Valley High School. The two of them look forward to conducting their Sunday services at the chapel of the Bradford County Manor. On a good day, 25 to 30 people will turn out for their afternoon church service, and they do everything from the scripture readings and sermons to leading the hymn sings. On occasion, the two of them even join together in a duet as special music.
"It all depends whether we have someone there who can play the piano in my key," says Lamar.
When attendance is down on a given Sunday afternoon, they take that as a positive sign: "That means a number of them are having visitors, and that's important to them," says Lamar.
The experience of bringing church to the elderly and infirmed is not new to Lamar. He grew up in the Evergreen Christian Church, and that church was providing a ministry at the Bradford County Manor when he was a youth. In fact, Evergreen still conducts one of the weekly services each month at the manor.
"I remember going there as a teen-ager and it stuck with me," he says today.
When he married Rose Wells, her church became his, and the two of them have been loyal and active parishioners ever since. They brought up their two daughters, Jennifer and Marla, in the church and both were young children when they first began serving the residents of the Bradford County Manor.
"It was a good experience for them, seeing how you can reach out to people like that," says Lamar today. "I think it was one of the best things we did for the kids."
It is also a good experience for the residents of the manor, most of whom are elderly and, as is typical of their generation, regarded church as a big part of their lives. When you are no longer a member of a community and what is often its spiritual and social hub, the church, it has to leave a void in a life that may already be fraught with loneliness. The Kipps say that although dementia and Alzheimer's are common in nursing facilities, even those who generally seem unaware of what is going on around them seem to respond to their Sunday ministry.
Not only that, but it has become a second family for them, and some of the residents become very interested in their lives. One of them made quilts for their daughters, and they are very supporting of the Moxie church itself, which is rebuilding at the top of Welles Mountain after a fire destroyed their previous sanctuary on Dec. 6, 2001.
"They always ask, ?How is the church coming?'" says Rose.
The Kipps continue to take the church to the county manor on their one Sunday a month—from 2 to 3 p.m. in the chapel. To them, it's not a big deal.
Why do it?
Lamar doesn't hesitate when the question is posed: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Someday I could be 90 and sitting in a nursing home."