It is estimated that in the United States one out of every seven adults is over sixty years of age. This percentage is considerably higher when we examine the membership lists of our churches. The messenger of the Lord wrote, "God has especially enjoined tender respect toward the aged. He says, 'The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness." "—Education, p. 244.
In each church there are always those who because of old age and sickness are unable to attend the Sabbath services. Doubtless there is no more consecrated group, for these good folk in their sunset years turn naturally to God and the things that pertain to His plan. How they yearn for the privilege of attending the services of the church and fellowshipping with the children of the blessed hope! Most of the shut-in group have been faithful and active members for years; and now, because of old age or infirmity, they are forced to become relatively inactive. How it hurts them to consistently miss the celebration of the ordinance of the Lord's Supper!
For the past several years it has been my custom to visit the shut-ins and celebrate with them the ordinance of communion. It is inspiring to see how their hearts are cheered and how they look forward to this sacred privilege. There is no other act in a minister's service that brings forth more heartfelt response of appreciation.
The communion service to the shut-ins should be simple. The same texts that are read in the regular church communion should be used. After the serving of the second emblem it is appropriate to have a prayer of thanksgiving, in which the needs of the individual are re membered before the throne of grace.
Some ask, "Do you notify the people that you are coming to their home?" Usually not. If the shut-in knows in advance that you are to celebrate the ordinance at his home, he will often worry and become exhausted, and thus your visit tends to become a burden rather than a blessing. However, there may be exceptions, where it would be best to give an advance notice.
It is customary to take one of the deaconesses to assist. While the minister is visiting with the shut-in, she is preparing and setting up the communion emblems and utensils. It is my custom to partake of the emblems of the supper with the shut-in, for this creates a fellowship that adds to the atmosphere of the service.
Experience has shown that it is not best to try to celebrate the ordinance of humility, because most of the shut-ins are unable to perform the act of washing one another's feet. There may be some who will wish to take part in this service of humility, but in most cases you will discover that it is an impossibility.
There is one fundamental caution that experience will teach you to observe carefully: Do not stay too long! If you do, the shut-in will become weary, and the ordinance will take second place to many irrelevant items discussed. You will find that from fifteen minutes to one- half hour will provide sufficient time to leave a pleasant memory of the communion service in the minds of the people.
What greater service can we, as ministers of the gospel, do than to bring a bit of spiritual joy to those who are cut off from Christian fellowship? Nothing will make the shut-in feel more that the church loves him than for his minister to celebrate the Lord's supper with him. It will give him a spiritual lift upon which he will frequently meditate with deep soul comfort.