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Choir Eye for Retired Guys

Choir Eye for Retired Guys September 4, 2006


Your Town, USA – Everyone thought Victor Milsner had lost his marbles when he suggested a change of venue for the weekly choir rehearsal. The Court of Palms assisted living center, however, thought his idea brilliant. Since then, the choir has doubled in size and two of the Orthodox lapsed have been reconciled to the Church … all outside the walls of St Anthony’s.

Fr Matthew Swanson says the idea was conceived when he went to take Communion to a parishioner and heard a so-so Country crooner regaling the elderly and ailing with old Country songs such as “Looking For Love in All the Wrong Places,” “Swingin,” and “White Lightening.” “Why in the world do we, the Church, not provide a little more uplifting ‘entertainment’ for people in the twilight of life?” Swanson thought. “I mean, those Country songs may have meant something to them at one time … but, really.”

After hearing Fr Matt’s description of the scene, Dr Milsner, who has directed the choir at St Anthony’s for seven years, had an idea: “Why don’t we have our weekly rehearsals at Court of Palms?” The retirement center is only three miles from St Anthony’s and they even provided the music stands and sound system. “All we needed to do was bring our own voices and music books,” Milsner said.

“We love having them here,” Court of Palms director Cindy Cromwell said. “We always struggle to provide quality entertainment for our residents. With St Anthony’s rehearsing here, we not only provide uplifting entertainment — but, forgive me, the price is right!”

Word spread quickly that St Athony’s was “performing” each week at Court of Palms and before long other area churches asked to do the same. “Well, it evolved into a more complicated endeavor,” said Cromwell. “But, complications can be beautiful. Currently there are four churches holding their rehearsals at Court of Palms and several other area assisted living centers have expressed interest.”

“None of the residents really mind our stopping, starting, and mistakes. They love having us,” St Anthony’s choir member Jane Brown said. In fact, her great-aunt, Jamilla, had not been to church in years, ever since her husband’s passing. These days, thanks to the novel arrangement, she even sings along with the choir members.

“Sometimes, unfortunately, we let our older members slip through the cracks after they fall away from church attendance. With this new arrangement, we’ve actually seen several Orthodox residents express interest in being reconciled to the Church,” said Fr Matt. He continued, “Perhaps the most surprising development is the growth of the choir. We’ve doubled in size because folks like the idea of combining outreach, fellowship and practice. What can I say? It’s nice — a blessing for all involved!”

“One side benefit,” Milsner added, “is that some folks — residents and visitors alike — are experiencing Orthodoxy, through song, for the first time. Though evangelism was not part of the original plan, God uses what works. I believe, as long as we are faithful and working, God will provide the increase.”

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