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This flock just needs someone to tend it

Gladys D. Moore had a simple question: "Where are the people who said, "I'll go, Lord, send me'?"

They apparently aren't anywhere near the Sunshine Village Nursing Home.

For six months its officials have shopped for someone _ anyone _ to lead a non-denominational church service once a week. The nursing home's 120 residents, including Moore's 87-year-old husband, are too ill to go to church on their own.

The service doesn't have to be on Sunday. The home has its own piano, if someone is musically inclined, and copies of hymns large enough for the residents to read and sing along.

But Denise Bartlett, activities assistant, said the nursing home has gotten nowhere.

"We've called and written at least 15 churches and they've either said they can't come or they don't call us back," she said.

The residents frequently ask staff members if they've had any luck finding someone to lead a service.

Some have even suggested that they start watching a service on television.

"There will always be someone who sticks their head in the activities center and asks if we found a church yet," said Patty Tydings, the activity director. "They now are suggesting we watch Hour of Power on television for our weekly service."

But Tydings said it seems unfair that these residents would have to turn to the television to be led in prayer when many of the residents spent most of their lives faithfully going to church every Sunday.

The nursing home has someone from the Catholic Church who comes each week to say the rosary to the few who are Catholic, but she said the only time they see ministers from other churches is when one of the patients is near death.

A spokesperson for the local chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons said she has never heard of a nursing home having a problem getting someone to minister to its residents.

Moore finally wrote a letter to the St. Petersburg Times in frustration, said some of the patients may appear as though they are too frail to enjoy a church service, but that's the time when they need one most.

Some have Alzheimer's disease or dementia. The minds of others are intact but their bodies have given out.

But through it all, she said, the residents remember the Bible stories and hymns that used to soothe them as children. Now, they'd like for those stories and songs to soothe them in their old age.

Moore said her mother, like her husband, had dementia and lived in a nursing home. But Moore said her mother came alive with gospel music.

"My mother remembered all those old hymns. She used to start singing in her wheelchair," she said. "The other patients would gather around her _ and sing with her without any music."

Moore said a little prayer and song could give residents of Sunshine Village joy as well.

"As I walk around through the dining room and other places at the home, a lot of them maybe can't hold an intelligent conversation, but a lot of them seem to be fine," she said. "They can't always walk but their brain is still there."

And, so, Moore said, is their belief in God and her belief that someone will step forward and minister to the forgotten.

Twila Decker can be reached at 892-2253 or by e-mail at decker sptimes.com.

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