Ruby Milanese and Gladys Adams talk to O’Della Grundy following a memorial service at Brocklehurst Gemstone Care Centre in Kamloops, B.C. Photo: André
“I’m one of the older lay ministers – I’ve been doing it since before they even called us lay ministers,” O’Della Grundy chuckles, while going over an order of service she will use for a memorial later in the day. “When I talk about [my] ministry to seniors, my daughter always says, ‘Mom, you are one!’”
Grundy is a parishioner at St. George’s Anglican Church in Kamloops, but she also has an extensive ministry of her own to Kamloops’ seniors – and given that 16.2 per cent of Kamloopsians are over 65 (almost 2 per cent more than the Canadian average), and that this percentage is projected to increase over the next 15 years, it is vital area of ministry in which to be involved.
“In Kamloops, we are like the hub of a big wheel,” she said, explaining that seniors will often move into Kamloops from more remote communities so as to be closer to the hospital. “We have many senior’s facilities, whether it is for assisted living or full-time care.”
While it is true that, in her mid-70s, Grundy occasionally finds herself performing memorial services for people who are younger than her, she still keeps very busy, offering regular services at three different seniors residences and facilities across the city. Last year alone, she performed 44 memorials – many of which included tributes to several individuals, and many of which had been written, prepared and compiled by Grundy herself.
“When I first started,” she said, “everything was on a single sheet of paper. So if you had three hymns, that was three pieces of paper, and then you’ve got your service [sheet]. Some of the seniors can only use one hand, some of them can’t see; you had all kinds of problems, and it was driving me crazy. So I’ve made up a book. I’ve got about thirty copies, and I take this with me everywhere.”
Being able to adapt to the very different needs of an older group of worshippers has been key, Grundy noted. “It’s one of those things that unless you’re doing it, you have no idea what the needs are.”
An added complexity is that many of the seniors with whom she works are not Anglicans. She stressed that “you have to be aware of everybody, and open to anything happening” to minister effectively to everyone.
At the same time, she is finding that regardless of denomination there is a great thirst for education among those she serves.
“The homilies that go over the best, interestingly enough, are teaching ones,” she said, “I’ve done lots of thinking about this – the people I’m taking services to are from an era where you went to church, and the person was up at the front, and you listened, and believed, and you didn’t ask questions… what I’m finding is these people are asking questions that they’ve had for a long, long time about heaven, about God.”
When asked how she came to be licensed as a lay minister of word and sacrament in the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI), Grundy has a difficult time answering, partially because the licensing process has evolved over the years, and partially because she feels her whole life has been leading up to it.
“How did I get here?” she laughs. “Everything I’ve done along the road, I’m using to do what I’m doing now. I was told when I was in high school that I should be a teacher, [so] I taught figure skating…One of the priests we had here took me to Sorrento, which is a retreat centre about an hour from here, and the weekend was on gifts…before the weekend was over, we had to decide what we were going to use those gifts for, so then I got into Education for Ministry.”
From 1988–1992, Grundy took Education for Ministry (EfM), a program of Christian education intended to grow an “active, theologically literate laity” based out of the University of the South in Tennessee and introduced to Canada in 1977 by the diocese of Cariboo and the diocese of Kootenay. After completing the program, she became a mentor within it, helping other lay people grow in their knowledge and understanding of the faith.
She was licensed as a lay minister of word and sacrament in the late 1990s, and became involved in seniors ministry in 2007.
Looking into the future, however, Grundy is unsure about who will continue the work after her.
“It’s a life’s journey, and I don’t think a person can do it with success if you don’t have a passion for it…I’ve witnessed others who give homilies who do the situation to the best of their ability, but it’s left wanting….It’s not for me to judge, but it can’t be taken lightly – it really can’t be taken lightly.”
For now, however, Grundy is happy to continue doing what she can.
“For me, it has been a life’s ministry without knowing it was going to be.”
Anglican Journal News, May 21, 2015