Meet the Team! Paul’s Run Has a New Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Services
August 4, 2022
Michelle Wildridge joined Paul’s Run retirement community in Philadelphia, PA, in May 2022 as the new Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Care. She has an impressive background in Interfaith Chaplaincy, leadership development, healthcare, and hospice experience. Michelle worked as an Assistant Pastor at United Presbyterian Church in New Jersey for six years and later became Chaplain and Bereavement Coordinator at Angelic Hospice for three and a half years before serving as a CPE Supervisor at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton, N.J., for two and a half years, before joining the Paul’s Run community.
As a Master of Divinity from Princeton Seminary, Michelle is proficient in Greek and Hebrew. However, it didn’t take being a Hebrew Scholar to figure out what the Jewish residents of Paul’s Run wanted and needed; they verbalized that there wasn’t a rabbi regularly available for Shabbat services, and it was important to them to have that access. She was listening.
Chaplain Michelle Connects with Aleph Alliance of Jewish Renewal
Michelle’s top priority quickly became finding a Rabbi to conduct Shabbat Services. “I felt badly because there were regular services for Catholic and Protestant residents, but the Jewish residents did not have a Rabbi to lead their services regularly,” she says.
I called numerous Synagogues and found Rabbi Renae Toben through the Aleph Alliance for Jewish Renewal, which has community connections with rabbis, rabbinical students, and other Jewish community members in the Philadelphia area. It took six weeks to find the right person in Rabbi Renae. She is an independent Rabbi affiliated with communities in the Bensalem and surrounding areas. She started on July 1st and performs Shabbat Services three times a month, and Rabbi Judy performs them once a month. We have had about 35-40 people attending the services each week,” says Michelle.
I’m passionate about bringing ministry to all, and to serving the needs of the very diverse cultures and spiritual beliefs of the residents of Paul’s Run.
Chaplain Michelle's Path to Paul's Run
The academic, spiritual and professional path that Chaplain Michelle has taken to Paul’s Run is interesting. According to Michelle, “I was raised a Christian but discovered when I was 18 years old that my mother’s mother was Jewish. No one had previously discussed this fact in the family.” This discovery initiated a period of religious and spiritual questioning. She majored in Religion during undergraduate school at Stetson University in Deland, FL, leading her to Princeton Seminary, Princeton, N.J., for graduate school.
Chaplain Michelle's Passion
She currently lives in Ewing, New Jersey, with her husband, Gil, because that area is centrally located to both of their jobs. Together, they moved to New Jersey when Michelle was accepted at Princeton Seminary. “He was completely supportive of my attending Princeton,” she adds, smiling.
Michelle and Gil first met in elementary school in Florida, but they didn’t really like each other until they became friends and started dating in high school. Later, they attended undergraduate school together at Stetson University and were married.
When asked about her passions, Michelle responds, “I’m passionate about bringing ministry to all, and to serving the needs of the very diverse cultures and spiritual beliefs of the residents of Paul’s Run.”
Michelle’s other passion lies within the special needs community. “Having grown up with a special needs brother, my desire is to bring them out into the community to be able to enjoy life just like everyone else.”
Michelle grew up in a close family and enjoys sharing a quote from her grandmother which seems an appropriate sentiment for a Chaplain: “After the stressing, comes the blessing.”