By Ann Lovell
CULPEPER, Virginia—Fifteen years ago, Hans Murdock was trying to get out of the country. It was September 2001. Murdock and his wife, Becky, were slated to serve a two-year term with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board (IMB) in Russia. They had tickets to leave the U.S. in mid-September.
Then 9/11 happened.
“We got a call from the IMB,” Murdock recalled. “‘You’re not going anywhere yet,’ they said. So, we started unpacking everything we’d packed up. We didn’t know how long we would be held up. A couple of days later, we got another call. ‘You can leave in two days.’ We started packing again.’”
Murdock is the newly appointed chaplain at The Culpeper, a LifeSpire of Virginia continuing care retirement community in Culpeper, Virginia. He, his wife, Becky, and their 7-year-old daughter, Sandra, recently relocated to Culpeper from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where Murdock had served as a church planter and pastor since 2004, a role he assumed after he and his wife returned from Russia.
Murdock’s position is a first-of-its-kind collaborative venture between The Culpeper, formerly Culpeper Baptist Retirement Community, and Culpeper Baptist Church (CBC), said Jim Jacobsen, executive director of The Culpeper. Murdock serves both as chaplain at The Culpeper and as senior adult minister at CBC — a vision that began more than a year ago among CBC senior pastor Dan Carlton and the senior leadership of LifeSpire of Virginia, The Culpeper’s parent organization.
“We wanted to strengthen pastoral service programs to seniors at the church and within the community,” Jacobsen said. “Many of our residents are members and active leaders within Culpeper Baptist Church. We support one another in many ways, and the addition of Hans will only enhance our vision of continued family within the community.”
Carlton agreed, noting the partnership is a natural extension of the relationship that The Culpeper and CBC have enjoyed for more than 70 years.
“Culpeper Baptist Church helped start The Culpeper and ultimately Virginia Baptist Homes” (now LifeSpire of Virginia), Carlton said. “What we will be able to do together in engaging people over 60 will be far more than what we could have done separately.”
Carlton, Jacobsen and a panel of community and church staff received more than 50 resumes and interviewed “many solid candidates,” Jacobsen said.
“We had a ‘top 6’ list that was pretty dynamic,” Carlton agreed. “Several candidates told me they would not have applied if it was only a church staff or a senior adult chaplain position. They were excited about the possibility of working in both arenas.”
For his part, Murdock is also excited about the practical ways the church and The Culpeper community can be involved together in spiritual growth in ways that are both intentional and intergenerational.
“Many churches put lots of emphasis on children and youth ministries,” Murdock said. “But for most churches these days, their greatest population is senior adults.” Murdock wants to explore ways to connect seniors and youth in a meaningful way.
“Kids and teenagers don’t always pay attention to their parents, but they will pay attention to their grandparents,” Murdock said.
Murdock believes the teachers and professionals who live at The Culpeper have a lot to offer kids in terms of practical support and life lessons.
“They can listen to children read. They can offer tutoring in math or science. There are great opportunities for them to connect with and continue to influence the community they helped build,” Murdock said.
What else can we expect from this new venture?
“Check back in three years,” Carlton said. “I think we are on track to create a model for spiritual wellness and meaningful ministry for people over 60 that can be replicated in many other communities.”
Ann Lovell is Corporate Director of Communications for LifeSpire of Virginia, formerly Virginia Baptist Homes. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (804) 521-9192.
LifeSpire of Virginia operates four continuing care retirement communities in Virginia: The Chesapeake in Newport News, The Culpeper in Culpeper, The Glebe in Daleville and Lakewood in Richmond.