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Heritage United's worship team from Ligonier conducts off-site church services with seniors

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 9:04 p.m.
Eric Schmadel
Richard Ziegenfus and Gina Ziegenfus pass out communion during services at Nature Park Commons Sunday in Hempfield Township. Eric Schmadel | Trib Total Media Taken by Eric Schmadel on Feb. 3, 2013 at Nature Park Commons in Hempfield Twp.
Bill Uhor, originally of Kecksburg, plays guitar during Sunday services at Nature Park Commons. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review on February 3, 2013 in Hempfield Township.

For almost six years, Heritage United Methodist Church's outreach worship team has been performing weekly church services for the residents of Nature Park Commons, a senior care residence in Greensburg.

“We provide a full worship service for all denominations,” said Richard Ziegenfus, of Ligonier, “We're there to provide the word of God to those who may not be able to attend every Sunday church service.”

Two more senior care facilities have been added in the years since the outreach team began. Regular church services have been taking place at Barnes House Assisted Living in Latrobe for the last three years and, more recently, at Loyalhanna Care Center in Latrobe.

The outreach worship team is made up of two retired ministers — Rev. Fred Vanderhoff of Greensburg, and Rev. Monte Holland of Ligonier. The team also includes certified lay speakers who have completed ministry development courses — Richard and Gina Ziegenfus of Ligonier, Diane Dennis of Ligonier, Bill Dempsey of Rector, Jon Heartland of Greensburg, and Andrew Flower of Ligonier. Together the participants form two teams that rotate through the facilities.

The program began when Nature Park Commons officials reached out to see if any services of this sort were available, Ziegenfus said. When asked if he could possibly perform services once a month, Ziegenfus immediately said he would be happy to do it every Sunday.

“It's phenomenal,” said Debbie Werner of Derry, the activities director of Nature Park Commons, “The residents look forward to it every week.”

One resident of the facility plays the guitar and Ziegenfus gives him a printed schedule of the songs to be sung the following week so that he will be prepared to play along, Werner said.

“They even do special services for us, such as at Christmas time and Good Friday, so that families can join their loved ones here for church,” Werner said.

Services are set up exactly like in-house church services, complete with a welcoming, opening prayer, our Father, scripture, and prayer request, said Ziegenfus. Communion is offered on the first Sunday of each month. Upon request, residents can receive visits or communion in their rooms.

“Everybody is so friendly and helpful,” said Joann Japalucci of Derry, the activities director of Barnes House.

More than half of the residents of Nature Park Commons and Barnes House participate in the Sunday services.

A few less attend at the Loyalhanna Care Center, but services were only recently offered at that facility and with time, Ziegenfus believes more participants will attend.

“The turn out doesn't matter. If three people show up and we made a difference for them, it would be worth it for us,” said Ziegenfus.

While the care centers may offer other church-related activities, the Sunday service provided by the outreach team is the only consistent, weekly worship service offered and residents of the care centers enjoy it very much.

“We had to skip a week due to so many residents having the flu,” said Japalucci, “They were disappointed to have missed it. They really love it.”

The outreach team is always on the look out for other places that might enjoy their services — not only adult care facilities, but campgrounds, clubs or anywhere a group gathers that wants to hear and share God's work, Ziegenfus said.

“We're blessed to be able to take the word of God into the community,” said Ziegenfus, “God has provided the means and we thoroughly enjoy it.”

For more information about the outreach program, call 724-238-5780.

Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.