Bio: Melke, John Rev. (2009)
Poster: R. Lipprandt
Surnames: Dobberstein, Melke, O’Brien
----Source: The Tribune - Phonograph (Abbotsford, Clark Co., WI), Wednesday, March 25, 2009, Page 12, By Kevin O’Brien
Medford pastor offers services for those with special needs
When Jeanette Dobberstein’s husband had to move from Medford into the Alzheimer’s Care Unity at Golden-LivingCenter in Abbotsford, she knew there was one thing he couldn’t give up.
“He just loves church,” she said. “That’s his favorite thing. Pastor tapes the Sunday morning services at Medford and brings them down every week, and he loves that.”
Still, there’s nothing like having the pastor in person doing the service.
Pastor John Melke at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Medford had been visiting Don at the nursing home and thought it would be a good idea to expand his ministries for those with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disabilities.
So, since October, Melke has been coming to Continental Manor on the third Wednesday of every month to conduct a “Worship at the Cross” service using simplified vocabulary and visual aids - like what would be used in a children’s service.
“It’s just simple language. They get a chance to respond; I say something and they respond after me,” he said. “So, it’s really easy to follow along with even though they don’t have it on a printed page.”
The Bible-based themes are the same as in traditional services, however “It simply shares the message of law and gospel, sin and grace and let’s then know that Jesus loves them and we love them too,” Melke said.
For the hymns, Melke picks familiar songs like “Amazing Grace” the residents can easily sing along with and play basic instruments like jungle bells.
“They really sang out today with gusto, didn’t they?” Melke remarked after his service last month.
The unique liturgy is developed by Jesus Cares Ministries, an outreach program affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran synod. The service has been available to pastors for about 10 years.
Melke said about 20 to 25 residents attend the monthly services.
In addition to visiting Continental Manor, Melke rotates with a Stetsonville pastor to do Monday morning services once a month at the Medford Nursing Home and Rehab Center and Our House Assisted Living.
Melke said he first became familiar with the “Worship at the Cross” liturgy while working at a church in Minnesota. He also introduced the service to his congregants in Medford just to show them what it is like.
Now in his 17th year of ministry, Melke went to college in Watertown and attended seminary in Mequon.
Jeanette’s husband was the principal at Immanuel Lutheran School for 31 years, and she was a teacher there, as well, before they both retired.
“He would visit Don down here, but thought maybe a worship service would be nice, and he volunteered to do that, and so that’s wonderful.”
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