MODIFYING RELIGIOUS SERVICES FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE OLD AND MENTALLY RETARDED
Henry A. Marquardt
I would like to offer some ideas about modifying religious services for people who are both old and mentally retarded. You might think a topic such as this should be addressed to clergypersons, rabbis, seminarians, and deacons. However, many of you presently have or will have important roles to play, especially since the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation (like corresponding agencies in many other states) subscribes to a holistic approach in the provision of services to clients. The Individual Service Plan (called an Individual Habilitation Plan in some states) assesses the needs of clients in all areas of their lives--psychological, physical, emotional, sexual, recreational, and religious. I hope the following ideas will assist you as you strive to seek resources to fulfill the spiritual needs of your clients with mental retardation who are old.
First, a word about religious services. A religious service, whether it be in a church, temple, or community residence, always has a twofold focus, a communal aspect and an individual aspect.
The communal aspect of a religious service enables members of a particular faith community to gather together in prayer, worship, and a prescribed ritual to express their common belief, to strengthen one another in their shared faith, and to give a sign to the larger community of their belief in a God who is present to them and making His presence felt in their lives.
The individual, or personal, aspect of a religious service enables believers to deepen and intensify their faith commitment, to be nurtured in religious teachings, and to be supported and sustained by fellow believers. Most important, a religious service should afford individuals