Janna Born Larsen is accomplished at celebrating diversity, especially during but not limited to the holiday season. The interfaith pastoral ministries manager and chaplain at Sedgebrook in Lincolnshire serves a diverse community that includes people of Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant traditions, as well as those of other traditions or no formal faith practice. Well respected in her field, Larsen is cited in the opening of a book by renowned professor emeritus Dwight Judy of the Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. She "describes her role as a 'community spiritual enlovener' who ministers in order to love and enliven others to more fully embrace their own spiritual paths and experience how their spirituality can gift the community and beyond," wrote Judy.
Larsen came to Sedgebrook seven years ago because she was attracted to working with a pastoral interfaith ministry. "It's a community that is so rich in different religious traditions and spiritual paths," said Larsen. "I wanted to help foster spiritual goodwill between people of different faiths."
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Sedgebrook recently concluded its eight-night-long celebration of Hanukkah with its Jewish residents. "We celebrated each night with menorah lightings and special programs sponsored by the Sedgebrook Jewish Council," said Larsen. This included a performance by the popular Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. "This was the third year they came. The place was packed," she said.
Christmas celebrations will include an ecumenical service on the evening prior to Christmas Eve, a Catholic Mass on Christmas Eve afternoon, and an ecumenical Christmas service on Christmas Eve morning.
Perhaps Larsen's favorite holiday-time observance will be the Celebration of All Things Good on December 18th. "Rather than focus on a specific religion, we want to celebrate the goodness of life," she said. "I tell residents to dress sparkly. It's a celebration and I ask them to be walking, living liturgical art. We will talk about the goodness that they're celebrating." Larsen said that, from a pastoral perspective, as seniors age and perhaps face losses and declining health, it is spiritually powerful and therapeutic to get in touch with their gratitude. "It's a very intentional and spiritual focus on all good things."
Sedgebrook hosts an interfaith council of approximately 12 members, selected for their diversity and willingness to learn and share. In addition, Sedgebrook has weekly Interfaith Worship Services where all are welcome.
Supporting different faith backgrounds is a gift and an opportunity rather than a challenge for Larsen. "What I find is that often times when people reach the age of our residents, they want to be able to learn from each other, often times growing spiritually themselves. For some, this is the first time that they're questioning their own tradition, or looking at another tradition," she said. "Often times it's a time of exploration and/or deepening of their own spiritual path. Some may have been afraid of exploring different religious traditions or paths because they're afraid they'll lose or dilute their own. We find the opposite. They often gain a greater appreciation and understanding of their own religion while also expanding their understanding of others.
Larsen said that throughout the entire year, Sedgebrook is a place that is "spiritually rich and vibrant. People are deeply appreciative of each other. That's worth celebrating any time of the year."
Sedgebrook is a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) offering a diverse lifestyle, maintenance-free living and outstanding amenities. Five-star rated Radford Green Health Care and Rehabilitation is located on the 92-acre Sedgebrook campus in Lincolnshire, Illinois. Sedgebrook is owned by Senior Care Development LLC and managed by Life Care Services LLC. For additional information visit www.welcometosedgebrook.com or call 847-901-3319.