Some might react to the news of a church starting a ministry to the terminally ill and their families as a “duh” moment. Isn’t that what a church is for anyway? For most people, the pastor, or some minister on staff, makes a visit to the hospital for the purpose of congratulating the parents of a new baby. When the child is dedicated during a special service, he, or she, gets her first Bible. Those babies grow, meet other grown babies and get married, mostly at the church by the pastor. When sickness comes, there’s the pastor. When they die, there’s the pastor. Isn’t this what a church is for?
When asked about how obvious the idea of ministering to the terminally ill should be, Kevin Moore, a minister at Gethsemane Baptist Church with leadership responsibility for “Annie’s Heart”, there is more to helping the terminally ill. Kevin is a hospice chaplain in the DFW area. I sat down with Kevin a few days back and asked him to explain the uniqueness of “Annie’s Heart.”
“It is neither a shut-in or time of death ministry,” he explained. “But, it entails a planning of events for care, support, and worship experiences to individuals and their families going through end of life circumstances.” He went on about it being more than “a ministry at the time of death. It is specifically for those who have been given a terminal diagnosis.”
The idea for such a service to the dying came from a lady in the church, Ms. Annie Sturges. She is a young lady in her 80’s. She hardly ever misses any of the services of the Gethsemane Church. For years, she would tape the Sunday morning worship time with a handheld recorder for the purpose of taking these taped services to those who were unable to attend.
Pastor Jerry Brown said, “I saw how Ms. Annie had a heart for this type of special care and began to think of how I, and the church, could become more involved in the lives of the terminally ill and their families. That is how I came up with the name, ‘Annie’s Heart’.”
When asked about what caused the interest in such a different church ministry, Chaplain Moore had this to say, “We are providing the “Annie's Heart” ministry because so many churches neglect those who are going through the end stages of life. It makes people uncomfortable, so it is avoided. In addition to providing support during the end stages of life, we will also continue to provide intentional support as a team to the family of the deceased for 13 months after the death. It is our hope that people can see God at the end of their own life or that of their loved one. It is our privilege and responsibility to provide that. ”
This program is not just for the membership of Gethsemane Baptist Church. For more information about “Annie’s Heart”, which begins April 1, 2010, please call the church at 972 222-0864. An informational DVD is also available.