Gentle Worship returns to campus
December 2, 2021
Article appears courtesy of The Crescent-News. Written by Tim McDonough
DEFIANCE, Ohio - Now in its ninth year, Gentle Worship is a service geared toward families with individuals
who are challenged with special needs, including Down syndrome, the hearing and/or
visually impaired, autism, etc. It is also for individuals who suffer chronic pain
or other ailments, and can't attend a regular-length service.
Gentle Worship is held the fourth Sunday of each month at 1:30 p.m., at the Serrick
Center on the campus of Defiance College, with each service lasting 30 minutes or
Gentle Worship services are also held on Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve, also at
Services are led by Pastor Dave Brobston of St. Paul Lutheran Church, and Dr. Fred
Coulter, professor of education at Defiance College (DC), Schauffler chair of Christian
education at DC, and an ordained United Church of Christ minister.
"After I was approached about the idea of a Gentle Worship service (in 2012), I talked
to (former pastor) Mike Donnelly of St. Paul's UMC," said Brobston. "Our initial thought
was, 'Why not?' So we put a team together (which included former pastor Eric Peltz
of First Presbyterian), did some planning, and got a hold of Fred here at Defiance
College, it was a natural fit."
Said Coulter: "I was asked to be a part of the planning committee, and at that time
I was working with families. Eventually, we got the idea that it seemed a better fit
to have the service here on campus, because it's a central location, it's handicapped
accessible, and there's plenty of parking. For Defiance College, it's a natural extension
of who we are, because we value inclusivity."
Up until February of 2020, Gentle Worship services went on like clockwork. However,
in March of that year, Gentle Worship services were cancelled due to the COVID-19
pandemic. After a 22-month hiatus, Gentle Worship made its return on Nov. 28, with
Coulter leading the service.
"It was interesting that you could say the people who attended in the past arrived,
we all got settled in, and I looked at everybody and said, 'It feels like we haven't
seen each other in forever, and yet, it feels like nothing has changed,'" said Coulter.
"We just picked up where we left off, it was great to be back."
Brobston and Coulter explained the atmosphere of Gentle Worship is what makes it unique.
"What I find so incredible about it, is that it's a small congregation of its own,
with its own vitality," said Brobston. "While it's an out-croping of three congregations
and Defiance College coming together, it is its own community. That's a neat thing
Said Coulter: "I think we've let the spirit move who wants to be here, we have an
article in the newspaper every once in a while, but we haven't really pushed hard
to grow this service. The people who need to be here are here, there's a depth to
the spirit of the service, and no matter who's here, it's full."
Brobston explained that the service doesn't change very much, and it's important that
"We sing the same songs every month, and the only thing that changes are the readings
and the homily," said Brobston. "It's been that way since 2012. We sing, 'Jesus Loves
Me,' 'Kumbaya My Lord,' and one verse of 'Amazing Grace.' Folks know the songs, and
they sing along every month."
Coulter reiterated Defiance College is pleased to host the Gentle Worship services.
"We love having this service at the college, again, it is about inclusivity and it
goes along with the mission of Defiance College," said Coulter. "We are grateful to
the college for hosting this service all these years, and we look forward to it being
here for years to come."
Due to Defiance College being on Christmas break, this year's Christmas Eve Gentle
Worship service will be held at Hubbard Hall, with attendees asked to park in the
parking lot off College Place. Volunteers will be on hand to help direct attendees
to the service.