When God called Cliff Hall to service as a lay speaker more than 40 years ago, it may have been to prepare him for just this moment in time. As the horrible COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged our community, Cliff, at age 92, has been serving as essentially the acting chaplain inside the Kansas Masonic Home in Wichita.
For years, he’s helped out as assistant to the facility’s part-time chaplain, acting as liturgist and fill-in preacher. But the ongoing safety of the residents, only essential care staff is allowed inside the Masonic Home. The chaplain was laid off. That could have been the end of organized worship there.
But Cliff Hall didn’t let that happen. Each week since the chaplain’s departure, Cliff has prepared and delivered a Sunday worship service in the facility’s chapel. On Wednesday nights, he’s been leading the Bible study group.
Despite his advanced age and his own difficulties getting around, Cliff has embraced this emergency mission. And he’s the only one of us who can be there to share the comfort of Jesus with the isolated and worried people, cut off from their usual sources of social and spiritual support.
On Nov. 12, the situation went from grim to worse. The Masonic Home was officially declared a coronavirus cluster by the county health department, with 10 staff and 11 residents testing positive for COVID-19. The residents receive COVID testing on a daily basis and neither Cliff nor his congregants were infected. But the entire facility has been placed on lockdown for safety.
Residents are required to stay in their rooms, where their meals are delivered to them. All group activities are suspended – including church services. But where some would despair, Cliff hopes. He said he’s been assured by the management that he’ll be able to resume services when the cluster designation is lifted, which, if all goes well, could be as soon as a week or two. Cliff is spending this hiatus studying, preparing, and looking forward to the day when he can resume holding services in person.
I’m looking forward to the day when I, and the other lay servants and speakers in the district, will be able to provide him more than moral support over a phone line. Until then, of this I am certain: Cliff Hall is the right man, in the right place, at the right time, with the right message.
He is where he is for a reason, to carry the message of salvation and love of Jesus the Christ to those who need it. As we all struggle through this tough time, I’d invite you to think of Cliff, and his ministry, and maybe say a prayer for him and his congregation in isolation.