Rumble over Rosary at Brook Village

High Rise in the Dead of Winter

Humanists of RI posted a Facebook link to ABC 6 News– there’s a rumble over the Rosary at Brook Village—

It was a religious battle at a retirement home in North Providence. Seniors at Brook Village say they were banned from praying the rosary in common areas, but the company that owns the property is now saying the whole thing was blown out of proportion.

Every Monday morning, for the last 14 years, Nancy Davey has watched the same Catholic television show. She and a few others pray as they watch it in the community room at Brook Village.

“You know, we are not hurting anyone,” Davey said. “We sit there in front of a television. We have our rosary. We don’t say a word.”

Brook Village happens to be my old visiting nurse territory. It’s not exactly a ‘retirement home’. It’s a high-rise tower where tenants share laundry and community space, but mostly stay in their apartments. Not all of them are old, but it’s subsidized for elderly and disabled.

These places are physically very nice, but often isolating. When people do get social, disputes break out and grudges are held, often as not. Tenants retreat into their own space to avoid the other tenants they aren’t talking to. Honestly, this nurse thinks that human kindness is so precious in these places that she would almost recruit for the smoker’s group that hangs outside by the ash tray.

I have no doubt that, as Brook Village management says, the whole thing was blown out of proportion, and the management staff are popping Tums and wishing everyone would chill.

Some of my best friends are atheists, like Steve Ahlquist from Humanists of Rhode Island. He goes to my church. (If that sounds strange, let me tell you about First Unitarian some time.)

I have worked in places where, with no doubt good intentions, religious people created an environment that shut out those of us who didn’t believe. If your spirituality is not the majority, and you depend on your paycheck, you take a real risk in coming out as pagan.

I once worked in a nursing home, where a nice group of kids came to sing Christmas Carols, and ended with an altar call to bring all these unsaved elderly to Christ. I know they meant well, but some of those folks were Jewish, most were lifelong Catholics who shouldn’t be conned into renouncing Papism in their last days. My Christian family had no idea why I found this offensive.

Rather than trying to ban religious expression– which is impossible, I would like to see a policy of tolerance and respect for all our diverse beliefs, and non-beliefs. It might be hard to write into policy, but there’s a difference between using a common space and dominating it. You feel when you are in the presence of bullies though it’s hard to define exactly how you know. Maybe it’s a matter of time and space.

I’ve been around people who play religious TV stations, it’s as soothing as nails on a chalkboard to me, so I can understand how someone would not want to hear it in the common space. But at a reasonable volume for a limited time I could put up with it.

I would encourage the management of Brook Village not to be frightened of controversy, and to encourage the tenants to use the community rooms for activities, and to be good referees so that the rooms are accessible to everyone and no one group pulls a coup and takes over the space entirely. That’s a tough job, but I know that the building management could teach the UN a few things about negotiation and peacemaking, and I know they’re up for it.
[the picture is Centerdale Manor, twin building to Brook Village, they share a parking lot off the Centredale Rotary]

5 thoughts on “Rumble over Rosary at Brook Village

  1. My mother always described herself as a “secular Jew”-she said she’d gone to synagogue enough as a kid and didn’t attend services that I can recall-she spent her last years in assisted living/independent living facilities which were very nice.
    Anyhow,she never would set foot in a church,the one exception being my daughter’s wedding and I could tell she was not at ease about it.(my wife,son,and daughter are Episcopalian) although my son is like me-no brand name.So on her deathbed at Miriam hospice in comes a woman who is an Epsicopal priest to speak with us and she was a very nice person-she wasn’t preaching Scripture to us,but reaching out-my wife was right at home with her obviously,but even I was appreciative of her assistance,not being too fond of clergy in general.I can’t imagine what my mom would’ve thought,since she was unconscious on a morphine drip.Maybe she would have wanted a rabbi,but this lady was the one who showed up and helped.
    Later on a close friend of mine sent a Catholic memorial card where it said prayers were going to be offered for her and far from being offended,I thanked him sincerely because he has been my friend since the early 70’s and I know his motives were good.My point?Don’t get offended too easily-life is too short.

  2. Yeah – I can overlook obvious overt piety – but I don’t forget it. The rosary thing, it’s kind of a hit in this house. The nuns are kind of funny if you really watch them.

    As to Unitarianism, even that is a little too much for my tastes. I started going to Bell St. for a bit but I could see it’s a dying congregation.

  3. I was talking to Barry Schiller, and recalling how a pagan group held a May Pole ritual in Buttonwoods Park. They applied for a permit to use the space on the same basis as every other group. Maybe the management of Centerdale Manor should make a fair policy for groups who want to use the community room, and treat everyone equally. That would be much easier than trying to sort out the relative acceptability of each group. Even Solomon would have a hard time with that.

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