Written by Emily Mullins
Outreach to the elderly is important at the Neillsville (Wis.) United Church of Christ. With more than half of the congregation unable to attend church every Sunday because of illness, disability or just general old age, the church takes its message to the airwaves to make sure that even its members who can't be present can hear the worship services and remain involved.
"We love our elderly and are very conscious of them," said Audrey Vradenburg, church secretary. "It's a good way to keep in touch with them."
For more than 35 years, Neillsville UCC has broadcasted half-hour portions of its Sunday sermons on WCCN AM 1370. While the broadcasts were intended primarily for those who are unable to leave their homes, they are also listened to by those who become ill or are just unable to attend church on any given Sunday. Each weekly program is sponsored by a congregation member, typically to celebrate a special occasion like a birthday, anniversary or day of memorial, which is announced at the end of the sermon. Full sponsorships cost $75, and members can also sponsor half of a broadcast for $37.50 or a third of a broadcast for $25.
"People want special dates, like anniversaries," Vradenburg said. "It works out pretty easy that way."
Vradenburg is currently working on filling up timeslots for 2013 and hopes to have every spot filled by Dec. 31. The broadcasts are part of the congregation's Care and Share program, which includes other types of outreach that benefit the elderly, such as newsletter delivery and holiday visits. Going one step further, the congregation also offers taxi cab vouchers for people who are physically able to attend church but do not have a mode of transportation. The church coordinates the free rides working directly with a cab company. According to Vradenburg, it's just another way Neillsville UCC keeps every member as part of the family.
"They are good guys and women," Vradenburg says of the church's elderly members. "We want them to be happy."