Chaplain Kendall & Clermont Park resident bring spiritual practice of silence to community
Within the vibrant and thrumming backdrop community life at Clermont Park, there’s a space held for something a little quieter. Every Tuesday morning a group gathers in an out-of-the way community room for solidarity and silence. Chaplain Kendall Batten-Kalantzis and Jane Vennard, who made Clermont Park her home in 2019, began the “Sharing Silence: Prayer and Meditation” group a year ago.
“I love silence,” Jane says. “I get so tired of words!” Molly Graves, who has lived at Clermont Park for ten years, loves going to the group: “I feel much better if I’m sitting quietly. I can mull through a lot of thoughts and feel so much better.”
The group is, by design, largely unstructured. People chit-chat quietly as they wait for others to join them. At the designated starting time, Jane, the group’s volunteer leader, uses an app on her cellphone that will mark the time. It chimes down a ten-second countdown, and then plays a gong sound to start the beginning of the silent period. For the next 20 minutes, everyone sits quietly, together, absorbed in their own thoughts, prayers, or meditation. When the app signals the end of the silence, people generally leave quietly, still holding the silence as they file out to the rest of the day.
The unstructured nature of the silence is one of the things that makes it really special, says Chaplain Kendall. “We decided early on we don’t want it facilitated more than it is. The group really connected with it – it’s a space to gather no matter your own practice, without needing to do the same thing as their neighbor.” This creates a welcoming place for belonging, a place for people of different faith traditions. “Some people practice Christian contemplative prayer, others Buddhist meditation,” she shares. “My hope had been to facilitate a space where all feel welcome and we share a certain intimacy together, regardless of our particular beliefs, and I think that is the case.”
Jane has a long history of working with silence as a spiritual practice. “There’s a mystical silence in Christian tradition. Silence is an expression of our spiritual life.” Molly has a background with the Quaker Friends, who also have a tradition of spiritual silence. “For me, it’s worship.” she says. “It reminds me what we are all a part of things. Let’s not get picky about who we talk to, or what God is.”
Chaplain Kendall connects holding space for silence with a part of the aging process that is sometimes overlooked: “We think about it often as needing to have more programs, and activity. There’s value to sitting down and having space to work on our spiritual life. I try to balance between activity, and think and plan to have reflective spaces, too.” Creating sacred spaces for residents, families, and team members is something she sees as part of the special role of the chaplain team. Holding those spaces, she says, is about intention: “It’s having an intention to be present to yourself, to God, and to each other.”
Though the experience of sitting in silence is difference for each individual, sharing silence together creates a sense of bonding and camaraderie. “I feel like I know people because we’re spending this time together. There’s a sense of connection with the group. The new people fit right in, and I feel like I know people better now.” Jane shares. Molly agrees. “We worship as a human group, together. We’re all a part of it.”
Chaplain Brian helps Someren Glen team member on his spiritual journey
Roy Goddard worked with the Dining Services team at the Suites at Someren Glen for five years. He liked his work, especially the relationships he developed with residents living in skilled nursing: “Working in the dining room, you had time to talk to them and get to know them and form a bond with them.”
CLC encourages residents and team members to build close relationships, which helps everyone to grow and thrive. Roy found those relationships very rewarding, but also difficult at times: “You get attached to the residents and when it’s their time to go home it can be upsetting.” When two residents Roy had formed close bonds with passed away, it affected him deeply.
He was able to turn to Chaplain Brian Miranda, the chaplain at the Suites at Someren Glen, for spiritual comfort and help in processing those feelings. “He has an open-door policy," shares Roy. "You always see him walking around and greeting you. He’s very visible in the community. It makes him easier to approach him – you know him. You can tell he’s the one who puts work and effort into knowing people, including workers.”
Chaplain Brian was a great listener for Roy and helped remind him about the sacred aspects of working with elders: “He gave you reminders that you’re doing God’s work, and that rejuvenates you and gives you the energy you need and mindset you need. It would also bounce me back.”
Chaplain Brian makes the connection between the Eden Alternative approach that Someren Glen uses to encourage and build strong relationships between residents and care partners and the Chaplain Program. “With Eden, it’s mind, body, and soul. If people want to follow that Eden track, they should have a pastor program, too,” shares Roy.
Roy also credits Chaplain Brian with helping him on his own spiritual journey, answering questions and having great conversations centered on Christianity. “A lot of times during my breaks I’d go sit with him in his office and ask questions," says Roy. "That helped me in my faith journey. He really helped me out. It’s just nice to have someone who is willing to sit with you and talk.”
Roy is deeply grateful for Chaplain Brian, and all the help that he gave him along the way. He wishes people knew more about how special CLC’s Chaplain Program is: “It’s one thing that makes CLC stand out.” He says that senior living communities that don’t have on-staff chaplains are missing an important aspect of support for team members. He hopes others know that the Chaplain team is there to help and support everyone in the community: “I just think everybody in the community should not take it for granted and appreciate what they have.”
Chaplain Cindy offers whole family support for Someren Glen resident & her family
Cindy Martin and her mom, Judith, met Chaplain Cindy Simpson in 2021, two days after Judith moved into Someren Glen. Judith told Chaplain Cindy she probably wouldn’t attend community chapel services. Chaplain Cindy reassured Judith and Cindy that she was there to offer whatever they might need, whether that was spiritual guidance or a listening ear. “I thought that was really nice,” Cindy recalls.
Last December, Judith and her family learned that her lung cancer had returned. She was expected to only have six months to live. It was a difficult and overwhelming moment for Cindy, her brother Jeff, and Judith. Chaplain Cindy stepped in right away to support them in whatever way they needed. “Through the whole process, she was the one that communicated with us and facilitated communicating with the other staff,” Cindy shared, including Judith’s new hospice team. Whenever they had a question, Chaplain Cindy would find the answer or the right person to connect them with.
It made a big difference for her family. “We felt like we could share things with her. The whole thing was hard, and it was good to be able to go in and talk with her and just be more honest with my feelings.”
Having a trusted person made a difference for Judith, too. There was a kind chaplain with the hospice team who also checked in on her. “But Cindy knew her more. It was nice to know that person had been with my mom the entire time she’d lived at Someren Glen. I think my mom felt like she could be honest with her.”
Judith passed away this October. Chaplain Cindy was still there for Cindy and her brother Jeff, offering condolences, a listening ear, and letting them know that she was available for support. She worked with them to arrange a celebration of life service at Someren Glen, which had been part of Judith’s last wishes. “It was such a lovely experience,” Cindy shared. “There was a full house in that community room.” The team at Someren Glen even arranged to have the service taped, so that the family could share it with Judith’s brother who lives in a skilled nursing community in Steamboat Springs.
Cindy and her family are so grateful for the support they got from the entire team at Someren Glen, but especially from Chaplain Cindy. She hopes that other families and residents know what a CLC Chaplain is: “A safe person, a safe place, to share their feelings and what their needs are. Not to think that nobody wants to listen to them. There is somebody there that will do that.”