Pastor Raises Ekklesia in Retirement Community
By Rachel Eldridge
Pastor Bob Brooke used to joke that “retirement” wasn’t in the Bible, until realizing that Leviticus talks about priests getting too old to handle the animals needed for sacrifices. “Now, I say there’s no word of retirement in the New Testament,” he quips.
Bob practices what he preaches. He and his wife Barbara host a weekly Sunday service in the retirement community where they reside. Grace Pointe Living is an independent living community for adults ages fifty-five and over in Moore, Oklahoma. While its residents are active and fully independent, they don’t always have cars or the ability to easily get to church.
Grace Pointe’s community director approached Bob one day, remembering he was a retired pastor, and asked if he would like to offer a program. The community already had a weekly Bible study, but she could envision a worship service, maybe even a Grace Pointe choir.
Bob and Barbara prayed about the opportunity, and they have been faithfully organizing the weekly Grace Pointe Sunday Service since February of this year. Bob explained that he is careful not to call it a church service, as it isn’t their goal to start a church—but the gathering does, in fact, take place in a church sanctuary. Interestingly enough, Grace Pointe Living has developed apartment suites inside of a church building they purchased and renovated, leaving the original sanctuary intact.
Retirees congregate there for the Sunday service, which includes hymns and worship songs, a Scripture reading and devotional, and prayer. Bob is intentional about keeping the service about thirty minutes long, knowing that sitting in chairs for longer periods can be difficult as people get older. “But God’s Spirit enlivens us,” Bob says. “We meet together to deepen our faith in Christ, pursuing the love of God and love of others as Jesus’ disciples.”
Barbara has started a pre-service fellowship of coffee and donuts, which gives the residents of the community time to chat and connect with each other before worship. Sunday Service is giving other residents the opportunity to continue using their gifts, as well—including a piano player, a song leader, a backup piano player, and many vocalists.
“It’s been amazing seeing how God is supplying,” Barbara says. “We have enough singers for a quartet… maybe not a choir yet, but a quartet!”
“It’s the Lord’s stuff, not ours,” says Bob. “I want our community to feel like it is their service—our service.” As other retired ministers and interested individuals move in, “I’m just showing up and watching what the Lord does!
“He’s such a great God and he works in big ways. I think about some of the large congregations out there—and here we are, a tiny group of people, not even a real church, and we’re having just as much fun in the Lord as they are!”
Before retiring, Bob served in full-time ministry for decades, as a pastor in many different Church of God congregations, as well as serving as pastor in other churches and as a US Army chaplain.
After such full seasons of ministry, “A lot of retired pastors may be sitting around like I was after retiring, wondering, ‘Now what?!’ And this is it!” Bob says. “If you think your work is done for the Lord, you can’t put your feet up yet. We are still needed, and as long as we have a body and a head on our shoulders, let’s keep serving.”
The Brookes’ eagerness to serve the Lord and his people is an exhortation to believers at every stage of life. As Bob says, “It’s all about looking around and seeing where you are and what God would have you to do.”
Rachel Eldridge is a freelance writer who attends First Church of God in New Albany, Indiana.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) photo: Bob and Barbara Brooke delight in their new ministry setting.