Chaplain retires after 23 years in ministry

PHOTO PROVIDED The Rev. Peter Geschwindner delivers a sermon at a previous service held at Albright Care Services RiverWoods Senior Living Community in Lewisburg. After 23 years of service, he has retired as the RiverWoods chaplain.

LEWISBURG — After 23 years of service, the Rev. Peter Geschwindner will retire as the chaplain of RiverWoods, an Albright Care Services Retirement Living Community at 15 Ridgecrest Circle.

The Rev. Kathryn Morse will be the new chaplain as of Monday. She previously was employed as the staff chaplain at Geisinger Medical Center.

“She’s very qualified, very much a caring person,” Geschwindner said. “The key to any ministry is relationships. She visited one Sunday, and before she had left, she touched base with every person in the sanctuary and already started building those relationships.”

Geschwindner has a long history with RiverWoods.

“This is actually my second deployment as chaplain,” he said. “I was chaplain from 1999 to 2001 … and then I went into the development office.”

He said he also previously served as a pastor at Tunkhannock United Methodist Church.

“In 2014, I returned to RiverWoods to become chaplain again here at the nursing care center,” he said.

He’s also previously served on the board, including chairman of the board in the 1990s.

“After I got to serving on the board, I realized this was an organization that was doing a great deal of good work, and I wanted to be a part of it,” he said.

When the previous chaplain announced retirement, Geschwindner was eager to join.

“I applied for the position, and that’s when I was hired the first time,” he said.

He loved the organization so much that when life took him in a different direction, he was happy to come back.

“The opportunity to live in our own home in Milton and also to work for RiverWoods again appealed to me,” he said. “So, I came back as chaplain.”

Originally from New Jersey, Geschwindner said he enjoyed the Central Pennsylvania area.

“My primary responsibility is to provide pastoral care for residents and families. That’s basically being available to people when they have special needs, but in order to make myself known and to minister to the people, I do a hymn sing on each of the nursing care units every week,” he said. “I also do a Bible study and hymn sing in Riverview Manor, which is our personal care unit.”

On Sundays, he leads the worship service that is also broadcasted over closed circuit the television.

“One of the things that makes a nursing home chaplaincy different from a local church is that there are no committees,” he said. “It’s virtually all pastoral care and worship.”

He said it’s different from hospital chaplaincy because hospital chaplaincy is very clinically oriented and short term, but a nursing care center is long term.

“We have people where this is their home now and they’ve been here for many years, and I become their pastor,” he said. “I become the pastor for people who call this home.”

“I like working with the elderly. I find my style is well suited to working with the elderly,” he said. “I would not do as well in a church with younger people … I’m not particularly computer literate. I have a flip phone. I don’t have a smart phone.”

He said he also enjoys the style of worship, which is more familiar with how the elderly grew up.

“I’m very familiar with providing that style of worship, whereas in the local church there are more modern, creative things being done,” he said. “That’s really not my forte.”

He added he enjoys spending time with the elderly who call RiverWoods home.

“It’s easy to look at residents here and just see them as old people, but we have some phenomenally gifted people with backgrounds and experiences that one can scarcely imagine,” he said. “We have not only college professors, but at one time we had a resident who was instrumental in designing the Goodyear Blimp. We’ve had residents who were instrumental in developing nuclear energy. We have a lot of very well educated people.”

There are also regular people who still possess incredible wisdom from their lives’ experiences, he added.

“I’ve learned a lot about the residents, about family, about living and about dying,” he said. “It’s been a very good experience for me.”

“They’re individuals. They can’t just be lumped together as the elderly,” he said. “There’s a very rich diversity of backgrounds and experiences, and it’s been great hearing their stories.”

He said he loved his time.

“I am looking forward to retirement, but I am also going to miss the relationships that have developed over the years,” he said. “I’m going to miss the people, but it’s been a great experience.”

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