Luminous, late-morning sunlight streamed across the patterned carpet of the chapel of Homeland Center one recent Wednesday in early autumn — so much so that resident Ray Caldwell, 85, politely asked for the blinds to be drawn.
As he faced 12 of his fellow residents and prepared to sing by the stone altar and marble columns, the golden sunlight was blinding.
It was an apt prelude to the Gospel message expounded upon in a strong, soothing voice by Ray’s son, Rev. Dann Caldwell, chaplain of Homeland Hospice: that the Lord is the light of the world. Then, together, father and son sang “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”
The father-son vocal performance is often one of the highlights of the monthly Wednesday morning prayer service.
The duo sang often as part of a musical family, when Pastor Dann led Charlton United Methodist Church in Lower Paxton Township. Dann’s mom Betty, who still lives in the family home, sings tenor as part of the Sweet Adelines, and both Dann’s brother Rick and son, Peter, sing as well.
Three generations of Caldwells once performed the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” during Fourth of July services at his Lower Paxton church, when Dann’s son Peter, now 15, was only 4.
“That‘s one of my father’s favorite hymns,” said Dann. “And that’s one of my special memories,” as he recited the famous words—“Mine eyes have seen the glory….”
Both Ray’s brothers were veterans of World War II.
“It’s great to have anyone to sing with, but when it’s with your family member, it’s even more meaningful,’’ said Ray, who has been a Homeland resident since early April.
Throughout the prayer service, the residents listened with heads bowed in prayer, or gazed attentively toward the golden cross in the front, and often called out song requests from the large spiral hymnals they held.
Together the residents, who gathered before the altar in neat rows, sang moving renditions of “Because my Savior Lives,” “Shall We Gather at the River,” “Stand up, Stand up for Jesus,” “In the Garden,” and “Take Time to be Holy,” in between the recitation of prayers and Gospel readings.
“The service lifts my spirits,’’ said Vivian Black, an active volunteer and resident at Homeland. In the past 10 years, Vivian lost both her daughter and her husband.
“For me, it’s an absolute necessity that I come here,” she said, thinking of her recent losses. “What do I have? This is my home, the people I love.”
She especially embraces the hymn, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” because it reassures her that God is watching her, and one day she will be reunited with her husband and daughter.
Faye Dunkle, 91, dressed smartly in a cocoa brown suit, with matching pearl earrings and necklace, said she knows Dann, his wife and son, and his dad and mom from the old church.
“He has such a wonderful singing voice and is such a wonderful man,” said Dunkle, whose sister was also a Homeland resident. “I am so thankful for this chapel.”