By Cindy Solomon

Chris O’Rear, Counseling Center director at Belle Meade United Methodist Church in Nashville, counsels a client. A grant from the Golden Cross Foundation supplements counseling fees for United Methodist senior adult clients unable to pay a minimum fee.

The Counseling Center at Belle Meade United Methodist Church in Nashville received a $2,500 grant from the Golden Cross Foundation, a non-profit corporation and extension ministry of the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church. Money from the grant is used to supplement counseling fees for senior adult clients.

Launched in September 2017, the center was created to provide a place on the west side of Nashville—Belle Meade, West Meade, Bellevue—for professional pastoral counseling. “Our goal was to provide services to both Belle Meade United Methodist Church members and the larger community,” said the Rev. Jim Hughes, Belle Meade’s senior pastor, “and our hope was to provide, as much as possible, services to clients who could not afford the regular fee. Initially we offered a sliding scale to church members. In the past year, the center has been able to extend that option to some people outside of the church.”

After the center opened, the counselors realized a number of new clients were 65 years old or older. Many were unable to pay even the adjusted scale fee for the counseling service. “This program was proposed as a way to provide counseling with a broad scope of care to senior adults,” said Hughes. “Our counselors provide a place for seniors to address issues like grief, depression, anxiety, adjustment difficulty, phase-of-life concerns, loneliness, and family concerns with their grown children.”

Any clients seen by the center’s counselors at reduced fees are seen at a cost to the counselors personally. Thanks to the grant from the Golden Cross Foundation, the center is able to supplement fees for senior adults who identify with The United Methodist Church and are not able to pay a minimum fee.

Aware that the center could use the $2,500 grant quickly, staff decided to first limit the distribution of funds to senior adult clients who identify themselves as United Methodist. However, the center has had a number of senior adult clients who identify with other faith traditions such as Presbyterian and Church of Christ. “I would like to expand the distribution of possible future funds to senior adults from other faith traditions,” said Hughes, “because we would like this service to be a gift from The United Methodist Church to the community. We certainly have a demonstrated need for this.”

Chris O’Rear, Counseling Center director, said, “We are grateful to the church and the Golden Cross Foundation for this gift because the program has the potential to allow seniors who would not be able to have such support to receive it.” O’Rear added, “A non-UMC senior adult client who has been dealing with conflict with her child’s spouse recently said to me, ‘[Our conversations] have been so helpful and I am grateful for the opportunity to come for such an affordable fee.’”

“There is no greater calling than to be hands, feet, eyes, and ears of Jesus to any client,” Hughes said. “Our counselors have the opportunity to provide a caring presence and place for senior adults to come and talk about their lives and to be heard. Anytime I hear a client who has express his or her gratitude for their time at our Counseling Center or hear how a person has benefitted from their time with our counselors, I feel that our counselors and, indirectly, our congregation have participated in being Christ’s presence for them.”