Category Archives: Comment

The 5 Marks of Mission

Over the Summer in 2019, the Parish of the Good Shepherd has been thinking together in Sunday services about the Anglican Communion’s 5 Marks of Mission. [1] The Church believes that we have an important role to play as part of God’s Mission in the world. The church is to be a signpost to the reality of God’s Kingdom and God’s Kingdom Values. We are:

  1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  2. To teach, baptise and nurture believers
  3. To respond to human need by loving service
  4. To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
  5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth

The five marks of mission were first developed by the Anglican Consultative Council in 1984. Since then, they have been widely adopted as an understanding of what contemporary mission is about.  The marks were adopted by the General Synod of the Church of  England in 1996 and many dioceses and other denominations used  them as the basis of action plans and creative mission ideas.

Some churches abbreviate the five marks to five words: TELL – TEACH – TEND – TRANSFORM – TREASURE. [2]

These Marks underlie much of what the Parish of the Good Shepherd has been doing over the last 10 years and we felt that, this Summer, it would be good to be explicit about them. Our work at Holy Trinity Church and Community Centre in a predominantly Muslim area of the town of Ashton-under-Lyne has sought to place a high priority on the last three of the Marks of Mission. Elsewhere in our parish we have given priority to all 5 of these Marks of Mission.

In subsequent posts, I hope to allow these 5 Marks of Mission to speak into our circumstances in Ashton-under-Lyne.

References

  1. https://www.anglicancommunion.org/mission/marks-of-mission.aspx, accessed on 29th August 2019.
  2. https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-11/MTAG%20The%205%20Marks%20Of%20Mission.pdf, accessed on 18th August 2019.

Loneliness – the Response of Faith

Faiths Tackling Loneliness – 13th July 2019

A Faiths United Tameside Conference – Keynote Address

Our society increasingly recognises that loneliness is a big issue, and can have terrible effects. 2018 saw the publication of a Government strategy. [1] In June this year we had the first annual, national ‘Loneliness Awareness Week’. But this is nothing new for faith groups. Faith groups have, often for decades or considerably more, worked to create places where people can feel they belong.

Over recent years, the issue of loneliness (particularly amongst older people) has increasingly been described in the media as an “epidemic.” The Office for National Statistics and Age UK report that: over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone, [2] and 10 per cent of the general population aged over 65 in the UK is lonely all or most of the time. [3] The Campaign to End Loneliness emphasises that “as our population ages, the risk of social isolation for people aged 65 and over is increasingly becoming a major public health issue. There will be two million more single person households by 2019.” [4]

The UK Government accepts this definition of loneliness: “Loneliness is a subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship. It happens when we have a mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships that we have, and those that we want. [5]

FaithAction and the Church Urban Fund highlight all the work that Faith Groups are already doing. From supporting wider community initiatives such as Men’s Sheds [6] to specific activities undertaken by faith groups: Street Pastors, {7] Street Angels, [8] Neighbourhood Pastors, [9] local volunteering, forod offered at Gurdwaras and temples to all comers, specific actions relating to Mitzvah Day [10] and Sewa Day, [11] programmes of befriending and visiting.

Although the new Government strategy for tackling loneliness contains a recognition of the “fantastic role” that faith groups play, it remains true that, “there is a lack of awareness of the activities that churches and other faith groups offer that can benefit people experiencing loneliness.” [12]

A Case Study from the Church Urban Fund: [13]

“Nick had given up work to care for his wife, and after she died he became isolated: ‘In January I barely left the house — if you don’t go out you don’t have to come back to an empty house’, he said. He got involved in helping out with Together Middlesbrough and Cleveland’s Feast of Fun holiday club and found that this helped distract him from his grief: ‘Being with other people, especially the kids, just takes your mind off everything. I’m getting more out of it than the kids I think.’ He was able to use the skills he had to help the children and this boosted his confidence and self-esteem, to the point of being able to lead a session himself. Being involved with Feast of Fun has led to Nick volunteering with various groups and he is now looking for work as well.”

The problem. …… FaithAction has pulled together some statistics which help us understand the scale of the problem:

  1. One in Ten of us say that we have no close friends! [14]
  2. One in Five people say that in the preceding two weeks, they have never or rarely felt loved. [15]
  3. 14% of children aged 10 to 12 and 10% of young people aged 16-25 say that they are ‘often’ lonely. [16]
  4. 36% (over a third) of people aged 18-34 say they worry about feeling lonely. [17]
  5. 17% of older people see family, friends and neighbours less than once a week. 11% are in contact less than once a month! [18]
  6. About half of people of 75 and over live alone. [19]
  7. About one quarter of us live alone and do not speak to someone everyday. [20]
  8. About half of people aged 65 and over say that television or pets are their main form of company. [21]
  9. Loneliness increases the likelihood of developing conditions such as heart disease and stroke. [22]
  10. One study found the lonely people have a 64% (almost two-thirds) increased chance of developing clinical dementia. [23]
  11. The effect of a lack of social relationships on mortality is similar to that of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. [24]
  12. Lonely people are more prone to develop depression. [25]
  13. Three quarters of family doctors report that between one and five patients a day attend their surgery primarily because they are lonely! [26]

Those are the statistics. …What does it feel like?Two in three of us know someone who is lonely, 33% of people believe that other think there is something wrong with them, 13% of us feel lonely all of the time, 25% of us have a parent who is lonely, 92% find it really difficult to tell others that we are lonely, 80% of us feel judged negatively for feeling lonely. And remember, this is a subjective not objective issue. It matters most what an individual feels or thinks about themselves, not what is objectively the truth! [27]

I cannot speak for other faiths than my own. I can quote what their leaders have to say:

These are the words of Harun Rashid Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Great Britain:

“It is but natural to smile at a new face and exchange a greeting of peace – a small, spontaneous gesture in the Muslim tradition but perhaps a balm for the lonely and depressed. Mosques and Muslim led community centres are also a hub for more formal projects with the elderly, such as the park outings organised by Bradford’s Khidmat Centre and the trips on the River Thames by a faith-based residents association in Whitechapel. Social isolation affects all ages and the MCB is keen to join hands to tackle this social blight.” [28]

These are the words of David Lazarus, Chairman of the Jewish Volunteering Network:

“Volunteering is a key way of combating loneliness for both the volunteer and the beneficiary. The Jewish Volunteering Network… through a series of interfaith volunteering opportunities, such as helping the homeless at Christmas, as well as partnership with other leading faith organisations such as Caritas, we aim to show the immense contribution that Jewish people in this country make not only to those in our community, but also to those of other faiths and society as a whole.” [29]

Or prominent Sikh, Bhai Sahib, Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh OBE KSG, of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha and Nishkam Civic Association, says:

“There is an increasing recognition that faith communities constitute a vital part of our vibrant communities and help us navigate the challenges of the secular world. The family of faiths, the backbone of civil society, must seriously reflect on their own traditions and collaborate with others to jointly harness spirituality and empower the mortal individual to achieve success in attaining a greater understanding of ‘the other’ and be prepared to serve humanity.” [30]

Christian commentators agree with these sentiments and these next quotes express a confidence that faith groups really do have something to offer in this field.

The Rt Rev. James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle:

“Working as I do in a county where there is much rural isolation, I am conscious of the many ways in which faith groups are engaging with this vital issue – as of course, they have been for centuries.” [31]

Professor Jim MacManus, Vice-President of the Association of Directors of Public Health and President of the Guild of Health and St. Raphael; Vice-Chair of the Healthcare Executive Group of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, says:

“We know that the effects of loneliness can be devastating for physical and mental health. We also know that many of the things science tells us that can prevent and remedy loneliness have been the core offer of many faith communities for years. We have something important and practical to offer.” [32]

Faith itself is part of the solution. …..

Evidence from over 1,200 studies and 400 reviews has shown an association between faith and a number of positive health benefits, including protection from illness, coping with illness, and faster recovery from it. Of the studies reviewed in the definitive analysis, [33] 81% showed benefit and only 4% harm. [34] Studies, [35][36] have shown that being a believer is great for your health. Here are some ways that being an observer of any religion or spirituality has been shown to benefit your mind and body.:

a) Lower blood pressure: a 1998 study found that religiously active older adults are 40% less likely to have high blood pressure than those who are less active. The researchers from Duke University Medical Center measured the blood pressure of almost 4,000 participants, and surveyed them on their religious participation, and while the results were positive for spiritual people, the researchers couldn’t figure out why.

b) A healthier lifestyle: the effect of behavioral change due to religion literally reduces your chances of dying. Your faith community may not encourage you to eat organic, non-GMO, plant-based, local and slow foods, but it probably still exercises some healthy influence on the habits you form and the activities you undertake. [37] For example, there is significant evidence that HIV is much less of a problem in areas of the world where Islam is the dominant religion. [37]

c) More life satisfaction: religious people report more happiness and score higher in terms of life-satisfaction than non-believers. According to a 2010 study in the American Sociological Review, this is likely because regular church attendance leads to strong social bonds within congregations. In other words, believers tend to have more friends!

d) Less stress: studies have shown that religion reduces stress in a number of ways. Prayer, in particular, can reduce high blood pressure that is due to stress. The anxieties and stresses of modern life tend to encourage the body’s fight or flight response. Prayer, worship and other spiritual activities can balance out this stress response by enhancing the body’s relaxation response.

e) Coping with severe or terminal disease: palliative care takes spirituality very seriously, and has expanded the concept of pain to include ‘total pain’ in the terminally ill: physical pain, mental anguish, social alienation and spiritual distress. [38] Spiritual wellbeing has been shown to reduce hopelessness and suicidal ideation at the end of life, [39] whereas spiritual distress (for instance, fear of death or lack of purpose in life) is linked to sleeplessness, anxiety and despair. [40]

f) A healthier immune system: those who attend religious services at least once a week may have a stronger immune system. The 1997 study, also from Duke University Medical Center looked at 1,718 older adults, and found that the highly spiritual participants were about half as likely as those who don’t attend religious services to have high levels of an inflammatory protein in the immune system linked to certain cancers, autoimmune diseases, and some viral infections. [41]

g) A longer life: attending religious services more than once a week has been linked to an additional seven years of life, compared to those who never go. A 1999 study found that skipping religious services translates into a 1.87 times greater risk of death versus those who (religiously) show up. The researchers theorize the many social benefits of a religious community may help keep people healthier for longer.

FaithAction provides evidence that simply belonging to a faith group brings benefits when it comes to loneliness. [42] At its simplest, this happens merely by virtue of community involvement. Age UK notes that involvement in a faith community is one facet of civic engagement and social participation which guards against loneliness. [43] This participation gives older people a sense of place and belonging. [44] Faith Action go on to affirm that research conducted with migrants in Europe suggests that being religious and going to church can protect from feelings of loneliness and help migrants cope with their experiences. [45] Spirituality can also prevent loneliness becoming depression, with spiritual resources potentially improving older people’s mental health and quality of life. [46]

Just this last week I was talking to Zulf Ali who leads a GP practice in York which serves 45,000 people. He pointed me to a YouTube presentation by an eminent Muslim scholar, Abdal Hakim Murad which talks of the medical benefits of the Sunnah. I understand that the Sunnah is the body of literature which discusses and prescribes the traditional customs and practices of the Islamic community, both social and legal. Abdal Hakim Murad says that the Sunnah combines both rigour and beauty in balance and the person who lives the Sunnah, lives their lives in balance with the natural world, which has significant benefits for health. He emphasizes also the value of dedication to liturgy, meditation and the natural order. [47]

Faith Organisations and Loneliness. …….

Faith organisations seek by their very nature to address issues of isolation and loneliness. They have been proven to be places where lonely and isolated people find solace even if they do not accept the precepts of the particular faith.

Over a quarter (27%) of charities registered in Great Britain are faith-based. Faith-based charities in the UK are responsible for around 47 million interactions with beneficiaries each year, offering support equivalent to an estimated £3 billion in terms of hours worked and volunteered. [48][49]

As I have already said, I cannot speak authoritatively for all faith groups, but I can speak for the Christian Denomination to which I belong. The Church of England’s Church Urban Fund has undertaken significant research around the issues facing lonely people. Its research found that, in 2015, 64% (two-thirds) of Anglican church leaders reported loneliness and isolation to be the most significant problem in their parishes. [50]

The Church Urban Fund’s briefing on loneliness concludes: “Churches are uniquely well placed to carry out the types of activities that have been proven to be most effective in reducing loneliness.” [51]

The activities the Church Urban Fund identifies apply equally across all faith traditions:

“They welcome people of all ages; they provide group activities around shared interests – thought to be more effective than one-to-one interventions, or groups whose primary offer is social contact; they provide opportunities to develop lasting friendships; and they offer people opportunities to give as well as receive – to volunteer and take ownership of the groups, thereby giving people a sense of purpose.” [52]

We have been accustomed almost to be apologetic about what we have to offer as faith groups. To correct that, we need to remind ourselves of a few truths: the Church Urban Fund found that 69% of churches run lunch clubs and other social activities for older people, 59% run parent-toddler groups, 32% run community cafes, and 30%, youthwork. [53]

In 34% of parishes, churches provide volunteers offering pastoral support to the community beyond the congregation. Churches in the most deprived areas are the most active in terms of the number of activities they run. [54]

There is nothing to suggest that these things are not replicated across the whole faith sector.

I have already mentioned my conversation with Zulf Ali. In York, he has recognised the value of the faith and voluntary sector. He has seen a need to shift care from acute services in hospitals to primary care and the need to shift some primary care functions into the community. He is particularly concerned to see savings made within General Practice passed to the voluntary and faith sectors. Zulf successfully argued with the Clinical Commissioning Group and Senior Healthcare professionals that 50% of any savings in prescription costs made by his practice should be retained by the practice with the express purpose of grant funding voluntary and faith groups. In the few years that this scheme as been operating he has saved the health service £1 million in prescription costs and has been allowed to keep £500,000 to be distributed within the voluntary and faith sector in York.

Faiths United Tameside held a day conference on 13th July 2019  at which this paper was the keynote address. At the end of the keynote address, I outlined my concerns/hopes for the day. They were fivefold:

So, why this day conference?

  1. While we do so much as faith groups, we do not have either the widespread recognition of what we do, nor the self-confidence or capacity to engage with the statutory sector. I hope this day will increase our sense of self-worth. We do have something significant to offer.
  2. I hope this day will help others understand that, particularly when we talk about what the statutory sector calls ‘below threshold needs’, they need look no further than the existing voluntary sector and particularly the faith sector to meet those needs.
  3. In the light of the amazing impact our work, as faith groups, can have, I hope that locally, we will have increased confidence to ask for funding from statutory and grant providers for what we do to address loneliness. Our actions are already saving money for the statutory sector in the areas of Primary and Secondary care. That process needs to be allowed to develop and grow. Funding needs to follow actions that actually make a difference.
  4. This is a chance for you and I to gain from each-others experiences. I hope that you will make use of the opportunity to find out what others are doing, perhaps to see the overlaps, possibly even to think about working together to bring in the resources that we need to help people who are lonely. This is one of the most significant problems of our age.
  5. I hope that we will chose not to be satisfied with what we are already doing but that we will look beyond and look outward, and see the potential that we have to make an even bigger difference to the communities that we serve.

References

  1. A connected society: a strategy for tackling loneliness: Laying the foundations for change; Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Office for Civil Society, Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street, Tracey Crouch MP, and The Rt Hon Jeremy Wright MP; 15th October 2018.
  2. Office for National Statistics, 2010
  3. Safeguarding the Convoy A call to action from the Campaign to End Loneliness, Oxfordshire, Age UK, 2011.
  4. Ibid.
  5. D. Perlman and L.A. Peplau; Loneliness Research: A Survey of Empirical Findings, in L.A. Peplau & S. Goldston (Eds.), Preventing the harmful consequences of severe and loneliness; US Government Printing Office, 1984; p13-46.
  6. https://menssheds.org.uk, accessed on 8th July 2019.
  7. https://www.streetpastors.org, accessed on 8th July 2019.
  8. http://www.cninetwork.org/streetangels.html, accessed on 8th July 2019.
  9. For instance: http://www.countiesuk.org/neighbourhood-chaplains, accessed on 8th July 2019.
  10. https://mitzvahday.org.uk, accessed on 8th July 2019.
  11. https://sewaday.org, accessed on 8th July 2019.
  12. H. Buckingham; Church Urban Fund; Loneliness Strategy: Consultation Response; https://www.cuf.org.uk/learn-about/publications/loneliness-strategy-consultation-response, accessed on 7th July 2019, p14.
  13. Ibid., p3.
  14. C. Sherwood, D. Neale and B. Bloomfoeld; The Way We Are Now: The State of the UK’s Relationships; Doncaster Relate; 2014.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Office for National Statistics; 2018.
  17. J. Griffin; The lonely Society? Mental Health Foundation, London; 2010.
  18. C. Victor, S. Scrambler, A. Bowling and J. Bond; The prevalence of and Risk Factors for Loneliness in Later Life: A Survey of Older People in Great Britain; Aging & Society No. 25; 2005; p357-376.
  19. S. Dunstan (ed.); GeneralLifestyle Survey Overview: A Report on the 2010 General Lifestyle Survey; Office for National Statistics, Newport; 2012.
  20. B. Williams, C. Bhaumik and E. Brickell; Lifecourse Tracker: Wave Two report – Final, Public Health England, London, 2013.
  21. S. Davidson and P. Rossall; Evidence Review: Loneliness in Later Life, Age UK, London; 2015.
  22. https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/threat-to-health; accessed on 7th July 2019.
  23. T. Holwerda, D. Deeg, A. Beekman, T. van Tilburg, M. Stek, C. Jonker and R. Shroevers; Feelings of Loneliness, but not Social Isolation, Predict Dementia Onset: Results from the Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (AMSTEL). Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry No. 85(2), 2014; p135-142.
  24. J. Holt-Lunstad, T. Smith, J. Layton; Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review; PLoS Medicine No. 7(7), 2010.
  25. J. Cacioppo, M. Hughes, L. Waite, L. Hawley, R. Thisted; Loneliness as a Specific Risk Factor for Depressive Symptoms: Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Analyses; Psychology and Aging No. 21(1);2006; p140-151 and B. Green, J. Copeland, M. Dewey, V. Sharma, P. Sauders, I. Davidson, c. Sullivan and C. McWilliam; Risk Factors for Depression in Elderly People: A Prospective Study; Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, No. 86(3), 1992; p213-217.
  26. https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/blog/lonely-visits-to-the-gp ; accessed on 7th July 2019.
  27. https://linkinglives.uk/loneliness, accessed on 13th July 2019.
  28. R. Garland, J. Simmons and J. Hadgraft; Right Up Your Street: How Faith Organisations are Tackling Loneliness; Faith Action, London, 2019, p12.
  29. Ibid., p14.
  30. Ibid., p16.
  31. Ibid., p17.
  32. Ibid., p18.
  33. H.G.Koenig, M.E. McCullough, D.B. Larson. Handbook of Religion and Health. Oxford University Press, 2001
  34. https://www.cmf.org.uk/resources/publications/content/?context=article&id=25627, written in 2011, accessed on 7th July 2019 and https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/8480505/Faith-good-for-your-health.html, written 28th April 2011, accessed on 7th July 2019.
  35. https://www.health.com/mind-body/5-surprising-health-benefits-of-religion, written on 30th January 2017, accessed on 7th July 2019.
  36. https://relevantmagazine.com/life5/surprising-links-between-faith-and-health, written on 3rd November 2014, accessed on 7thy July 2019.
  37. Religious involvement is associated with a reduction in risky health behaviours, (J. Mellor, & B. Freeborn; Religious participation and risky health behaviors among adolescents. Health Econ 29th September 2010) for instance problem drinking, (T. Borders et al.; Religiousness among at-risk drinkers: is it prospectively associated with the development or maintenance of an alcohol-use disorder? J Stud Alcohol Drugs. January 2010; No. 71(1): p136-42) smoking (M. Whooley et al.; Religious involvement and cigarette smoking in young adults: the CARDIA study (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study). Arch Intern Med. 22nd July 2002; No. 162(14): p1604-10) and permissive sexual behaviour. This can have dramatic benefits. One study even found that religious attendance was associated with a more than 90% reduction in meningococcal disease (meningitis and septicaemia), in teenagers, a protection at least as good as meningococcal vaccination. (J. Tully et al.; Risk and protective factors for meningococcal disease in adolescents: matched cohort study. BMJ 2006; No. 332(7539): p445-50) Furthermore, religious involvement has been associated with improved adherence to medication. (T. McCann et al.; A comparative study of antipsychotic medication taking in people with schizophrenia. Int J Ment Health Nursing, December 2008; No. 17(6): p428-38)(J. Park & S. Nachman; The link between religion and HAART adherence in pediatric HIV patients. AIDS Care 15th April 2010: p1-6 [Epub ahead of print])(W. Stewart et al.; Association of strength of religious adherence with attitudes regarding glaucoma or ocular hypertension. Ophthalmic Research 2011; No. 45(1): p53-6. Epub 11th August 2010)
  38. World Health Organization. WHO definition of palliative care.
  39. C. McClain et al.; Effect of spiritual well-being on end-of-life despair in terminally-ill cancer patients. Lancet 10th May 2003; No.361(9369): p1603-7
  40. E. Grant et al.; Spiritual issues and needs: perspectives from patients with advanced cancer and nonmalignant disease. A qualitative study. Palliative Support Care. December 2004; No. 2(4): p371-8
  41. Psychoneuroimmunology is an advancing field of research exploring the complex interactions between a person’s mental state, their brain and their immune system, mediated by a range of mechanisms including stress hormones such as cortisol. Studies have linked emotional stress to development of the common cold (S. Cohen et al.; Psychological stress and susceptibility to the common cold. NEJM 1991; No. 325(9): p606-12) and to rates of infectious disease more generally. Others have linked religious involvement to lower levels of inflammatory cytokines and markers of immune dysregulation. (H. Koenig et al.; Attendance at religious services, interleukin-6, and other biological parameters of immune function in older adults. Int J Psychiatry Med. 1997; No. 27(3): p233-50) In one robust study of people living with HIV, those who grew in appreciation of spirituality or religious coping after diagnosis suffered significantly less decline in their CD4 counts and slower disease progression over a four-year follow-up. (G. Ironson et al.; An increase in religiousness/spirituality occurs after HIV diagnosis and predicts slower disease progression over 4 years in people with HIV. J Gen Intern Med December 2006; No. 21 Suppl 5: pS62-8)
  42. R. Garland, J. Simmons and J. Hadgraft; op.cit., p13.
  43. Jivraj, Nazaroo and Barnes in S. Davidson and P. Rossall; Evidence Review: Loneliness in Later Life, Age UK, London; 2015.
  44. Phillipson, Bernard,Phillips and Ogg in S. Davidson and P. Rossall; Evidence Review: Loneliness in Later Life, Age UK, London; 2015.
  45. R. Ciobanu and T. Fokkema; The Role of Religion in Protecting Older Romanian Migrants from Loneliness; Jornal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, No. 43(2), 2017; p199-217.
  46. J. Han and V. Richardson; The Relationship Between Depression and Loneliness Among Housebound Older Persons; Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Social Work, No 29(3), 2010; p218-236.
  47. https://youtu.be/Skf49GvfpP4, published on 26th May 2017, accessed on 7th July 2019.
  48. R. Garland, J. Simmons and J. Hadgraft; op.cit., p12.
  49. Cinnamon Network; Cinnamon Faith Action Audit, Hemel Hempstead; 2016.
    Church Urban Fund; Church in Action: A National Survey of Church-based Social Action, London, 2015.
  50. Church Urban Fund; Connecting Communities: The Impact of Loneliness and Opportunities for Churches to Respond, London, 2016.
  51. R. Garland, J. Simmons and J. Hadgraft; op.cit., p12.
  52. Church Urban Fund; Church in Action; op.cit.
  53. Ibid.

Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2: 41-52 & 1 Samuel 2: 18-20, 26)

I’ve discovered that as I’ve got older it has become easier to forget where I’ve put things. It’s actually quite worring.

Keys – losing my house keys would be a nightmare. But some of you will know that I have left church keys in all sorts of places in the last few years, fortunately without dire consequences as yet.

Notes for my sermon – imagine getting to church just before the service and discovering you’ve left your notes at home. I have managed it at least once recently and had to adlib the sermon. Some might say, why, couldn’t we have just got on with the service without a sermon?

Jo – I do know my wife’s name, I promise you but I have caught myself calling her Gill on a number of occasions recently. Gill is my sister’s name.

I hope you can sympathise with me!

I wonder, have you ever searched for something only to find that it wasn’t really lost? You ransack the house looking for spectacles, only to find that they’re on your head. You turn out the drawer looking for the tin-opener, only to find that it was already on the work-top. You search down the sides of the cushions on the sofa for your car-keys, only to find them in your pocket.

Embarrassing, isn’t it! You want to hide! If you’re like me you’re tempted to make up a good story about how you found them, especially if you’ve involved other people in an unnecessary search!

Mary and Joseph search Jerusalem for three days thinking that Jesus is lost. When they finally track him down in the temple they find that he isn=t lost at all. Jesus says very calmly, “Why were you searching for me?”

Jesus has recognised his identity as God’s son: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Just like Samuel in the Old Testament reading above, Jesus was at home, most at home in God’s house. He was not lost at all.

This visit of Jesus to the temple at twelve years of age – perhaps his bar-mitzfer – is like a homecoming. He’s in his Father’s house. For him, a theological principle has become an intimate, personal experience. The Jews believed in the divine fatherhood of God. For Jesus this was not just theory, it was a lived out experience – time and again throughout the Gospels we are reminded that he knew God as his Father. In the Temple, Jesus was at home.

You might know this quotation from a prayer of St. Augustine: “Lord, you have made us and our hearts are restless until they find their resting place in you.”

Jesus experienced a homecoming in his visit to the temple. We can similarly experience a homecoming – finding our resting place in Christ. Jesus says: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Many people spend their lives searching for something – not sure exactly what it is they’re looking for. It is the Bible’s claim, not just St. Augustine’s, that we find ourselves when we find God – that our searching ceases when we find our rest in God.

For Christians that sense of belonging, of being at home, is embodied in the Eucharist. At God’s table, we are welcomed without condemnation, without question. As we take the bread and as we take the wine, we are at home, sharing in fellowship with the God who made us, is with us, and thinks the world of us. We’re not lost – we’re at home.

New Year – New Beginnings

NEW YEAR – NEW BEGINNINGS?

As the New Year arrives I often find myself looking back – pondering what has happened over the last 12 months – and looking forward, wondering what is ahead.

The past year has included for me, most recently, the death of my mother. In the past 18 months I have lost both of my parents. They both had good long lives and strong faith and they were both looking forward to being at home with their Lord in heaven. Some of Dad’s last words to Mum were, “I go to a better, better place.” We reflected on the truth of that hope as part of Dad’s funeral. More recently at Mums’ funeral, we again reminded ourselves of the depth of love with which we are surrounded as followers of Jesus. We can let go of our loved ones confident that ‘they rest in him, our shield and our defender’, that they are surrounded and held in the loving arms of our Father God.

Jo, my wife, has been appointed Chair of the House of Clergy for Diocesan Synod and as result is now, for three years, one of the senior women priests in our Diocese. She holds this new role in tandem with her other roles in Parish life and as Ecumenical Officer for Manchester Diocese. Jo thrives in these roles and we look forward for God’s guidance for her for the future.

This has been a year when I have become more aware of both my gifts/strengths and of my weaknesses. It was hard to let go of the role of Area Dean for the Deanery of Ashton and a delight to be asked to be Borough Dean of Tameside, a role to which I was licenced in February 2018. This role recognises the work that I have been doing over many years to create space in the public sphere in Tameside for faith communities and some of the roles that I have played in more recent years in the wider charitable sector in Tameside.

Our personal circumstances are not the only things to reflect on. The war in Yemen, the ongoing saga of Brexit, the continuing sense that we have of being ‘at risk’ in a world where terrorism is a serious threat, all crowd in on our thinking. The uncertainty in national politics and the reducing value of the pound suggest that change in coming months is not going to be easy, whatever political negotiations bring about. Many things can leave us leave us with a real sense of worry and concern.

What was 2018 like for you? What were the ‘highlights’ and the ‘lowlights’? What seemed to leave you in the dark? What seemed to leave you basking in the light, in the sunshine of God’s love? What things excite you or worry you about the year ahead?

Things of the past as well as our present experiences and our anticipation of what the future holds, make us into the people that we are today. Each of our experiences over the past year are like ‘holy ground’, they are places where God was present, even if we couldn’t feel him there. They may have been places where faith was tested, sometimes to the limit, or even beyond. They may have been places of illumination where God’s grace and love for us became almost tangible. They may have felt mundane and ordinary. There may well be things which it is impossible to make sense of at the moment, storms which will not die down, emotions and fears which overwhelm us. All of these are ‘holy ground’.

In a beautiful passage in Isaiah, God speaks to his people:

“Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through rivers they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.” (Isaiah 43:1-3. NRSV)

A New Year brings opportunities for new beginnings, a chance to start over. It can be a time when we take a significant step forward in faith, or in our life circumstances. It can be a time when we hear again God’s promises to us, when hope is renewed, when we determine again to commit ourselves to serve others. A New Year can be a time when we break with the past, when we leave behind the old and move on to the new. A time to ‘wipe the slate clean’. And rightly so!

However, let me encourage you to remember that we are not just people who look forward to the future with hope. We are people who live in the present, and whose identities are shaped by the past. We are who we are because we have our own story to tell. We belong to a particular community and share in its joys and sorrows; we have a specific family background which has shaped who we are; we went to a particular school or schools; we have lived alone or with a partner; we have had children, or we have not had children, either by choice or because of force of circumstance. We have each faced the reality of loss in our own way. We have been able to delight in good news, and have shared in the joys of others. And we can all be encouraged by the words of St. Paul in Romans:

“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NRSV)

God does want to break into our lives, if we let him, to bring healing and hope, just as he burst into the world on that first Christmas morning. Healing and hope for our past, for our present and for our future.

This New Year, like every New Year, brings the promise of new hope, new chances, new life. God also wants to build on the foundations of the past, helping us to become the people we long to be. People who are confident of God’s love through all the experiences of our lives. People whose faith is built on strong foundations, people who have found security in his love, even in the most difficult of times. People whose relationship with God is real. People whose lives, past, present and future, can be, and are being, redeemed by God’s love.

We don’t just have hope for the future. God is at work in all of us, none of us is the finished article. God is redeeming each of us, our past, our present and our future.

Peace Babies

Jelly Babies and Peace in the World!

In August 2014, I wrote a post about the history of Jelly Babies and their first being produced at the end of the 1st World War in 1918. This is the link. …

https://rogerfarnworth.com/2014/08/03/jelly-babies-and-the-peace-of-the-world

Recently, Maynard Bassett’s have produced a special edition pack of Jelly Babies which have them renamed as “Peace Babies.”

This gives another really good excuse to buy and eat Jelly Babies which while high in sugar content are fat-free!

“In celebration of the end of the First World War in 1918, George Bassett & Co. produced Peace Babies – what would later become the confectionery classic we all know as Jelly Babies.

Now, to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War One, Maynards Bassetts has designed a special limited-edition pack of Peace Babies available at Tesco. Aiming to raise over £25,000 for Help for Heroes*, the money raised will help us support those who put their lives on the line for us to have a second chance at life for them and their families.

Archivists at Mondelez trawled through records and found a rare surviving copy of an export list mentioning the sweet treat. Thought to be from the 1920s or 30s, this shows a ‘hundred-weight’ (100lb or 45kg) of Peace Babies listed for sale in ‘4lb wood boxes’, for the grand total of 68 shillings. This would be the equivalent of £139.60 in today’s money!

It is thought that these were on sale until a shortage of raw materials put a stop to production during World War Two. In 1953, they were relaunched as Jelly Babies – the rest, as they say, is history!

(Available at selected Tesco stores and http://www.tesco.com while stocks last ….. A A5p donation from the sale of each product sold in Tesco and http://www.tesco.com between 05/09/2018 and 06/11/2018 will go to Help for Heroes Trading Ltd, which gifts all its taxable profits to Help for Heroes (a charity registered in England and Wales , number 1120920 , and in Scotland SCO44984).”

It seems as though the jelly baby first appeared by mistake! Legend has it that it was an Australian immigrant in 1864 that made the first Jelly Baby, although he chose to call them “unclaimed babies.” He was meant to create a mould for jelly bears, however, (for reasons which may be forever lost in time) it seems the jelly baby was born instead – pun wholly intended. [2]

And thus, jelly babies became a firm favourite in the UK.

After a short hiatus, classic sweet manufacturer Basset’s took up the style of the rather darker original name ‘unclaimed babies’ and rebranded them ‘Peace Babies’ to mark the end of World War I. These new sweets had a more realistic baby look , closer to the sweets we know today.[2]

References

1. https://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/news/2018/september/peace-babies

2. https://www.sweetsinthecity.co.uk/news/post/jelly-babies-facts

 

 

 

Christ the King – Sunday 25th November 2018

This is the Sunday before the start of the Church Year. Advent Sunday and a period of waiting for the coming of the King precede the celebration of Christmas. Christians wait in the dark, for the coming of the light. ……

The Church has set three readings for the principle service on the Festival of Christ the King:

Daniel 7: 9-10, 13-14; Revelation 1:4-8; John 18:33-37

The world can be a very dark place.

It is difficult to avoid the darkness without pretending it does not exist. Some people close the curtains and put on the fire, others make their escape to warmer climes – Jo and I are just back from a week in the South of France. Increasingly people spend the summer in the UK and the winter in Spain. The shops throw themselves wholeheartedly into Christmas no more than weeks after the summer holidays are over. We don’t cope well with waiting, we don’t cope well with the darkness.

How do you cope – do you try to hide, try to escape, rush through the darkness looking for light and hope? How do you cope with the world as it is?

So many of us look for ways to avoid the bleakness of our world. And it is almost as though the readings for the festival of ‘Christ the King’ collude with our desire to escape the realities of our world, the darkness which sometimes seems as though it will overwhelm us. …….

Have you heard these before: “Pie in the sky when you die.” “Your faith is no earthly use, it does not affect the world in which we live, just a safety net when you die.” ….. And on “Christ the King” we listen to readings which are about that future – Christ in glory – and even Jesus in the Gospel reading says, “My kingdom is not from this world.”

For me, personally, at this time, having so recently lost my mother, these promises have substance. … Yes, I am sure of Mum’s place at home with her Lord. … And despite the tears, when she asked me earlier in November to pray that she would be able to go home soon to be with her heavenly father, I prayed that prayer with confidence and hope. We were both crying, but we both knew that it was right. She was on her final journey and she was going home. For her, the journey was taking longer than she hoped, but her faith was firm.

The question of how we cope with the realities of our world has exercised the minds of people down through the centuries. Some people have retreated from the world, retreated into closed communities refusing to partake in the life of the world – people like the Hamish, like some very closed monastic orders. Others have given up on their faith altogether, becoming fatalistic – “How can God care,” they say, “when we see all this going on?”

The literature of Daniel and Revelation (and some other books of the bible) was one of the ways that people of Bible times were helped to cope with the realities of their world. They are books which still today mean a great deal to church communities facing persecution for their faith. In their difficult language they grapple with the reality of the world as it was when they were written, pointing to the signs of hope in the world of the day and on into the future to a time when God will put all things right.

Our churches are increasingly welcoming people from other parts of the world who have faced persecution, who are looking to escape the darkness, who long to live in the light of the Gospel. These are people we have come to love, who while their asylum applications are being considered still live in fear of the darkness. We pray with them in hope.

We live in difficult times. Times when the darkness feels like it might overwhelm us. ‘In-between times’ – times between Christ’s first coming and a day when he will return – times when we glimpse God at work in our world but when we also see things which make us wonder where on earth he is. More often than not our media and, in we are honest, we ourselves focus on the negative, we see the darkness rather than the light.

There are good things going on in our world. We could call them “signs of the Kingdom.”  But, in the end, we are still waiting for the fullness of God’s kingdom to come – the time when we will see for real, the whole of history enfolded in the arms of the God who created and sustains our world.

The readings for ‘Christ the King’ encourage us to believe, in the midst of darkness, that God is still Lord of History, that in the words of Baldrick off Black Adder, God still has a cunning plan, a plan which he will bring to fulfilment in due time.

Christ will one-day reign with obvious authority.

But these readings also encourage us to believe that God’s Kingdom is not just something for the future, that it is a reality now, and that it is something that we can work to bring to greater reality in our world.

How? … Through our faithfulness to the promise in the midst of darkness. We are called to faithfulness, to living God’s way, to being the people and the place where hope can be re-born in our towns and communities.

Ultimately, as Christians, we cannot flee the darkness or hide away from it or pretend it doesn’t exist.  We’re intended, by God, to be the one’s who are able, with the eye of faith, to see Christ, the Crucified King, in all his Kingly Glory and who can help those around us to sense the light and warmth of God in their lives. People who see things from God’s perspective and help others to do the same. Not people who escape the world, but people who enter the world with hope, bringing light into darkness and despair.

Mum and Dad – Part 2 – Mum

This the second of two posts about my parents. The first tells Dad’s story:

https://rogerfarnworth.com/2018/11/12/mum-and-dad-part-1-dad

This post tells Mum’s story, predominently in her own words ….

Mum was born in Tonbridge, Kent [1] in the home of friends of her parents on 14th December 1929. She had an older brother, Bernard, born on 2nd January 1924 in a hospital in London. Her maiden name was Phyllis Rosanna Ellen Norton (Rosanna was her Mother’s Mother’s name and Ellen was her Father’s Mother’s name).

Mum was actually Christened ‘Hosanna’ as the clergyman didn’t hear properly!

Early in her life, Mum lived in Tonbridge – she says that she did not play out as a child, nor go to school until she was 6 years old; her mother didn’t want to part with her. The ‘school-board’ man came to visit to see why she was not there!

Mum’s dad (we called him Garpe) had his own business and was doing reasonably well, but his brother joined him and became a sleeping partner, needing a share in the profits but doing very little. To ease the situation, Garpe returned to being a shipwright in Chatham dockyard and moved his family to Gillingham. The house in Tonbridge was let out and they rented one in Gillingham. Mum thinks that this happened early 1938.

Later in 1938, with the scare of war, she was sent back from Gillingham to Tonbridge to live with her Uncle Syd and family. Mum did not think thatbshe was too unhappy, but her mother (our Nana) was and as a reult Mum went back to Gillingham in 1939. School was an unhappy time for Mum in Gillingham. She says: “I was picked on by head and staff and children.”

In 1939, Mum sat the scholarship and passed. She and her family moved to Plymouth in 1940 as Garpe (misguidedly, as it turned out) thought it would be safer – he transferred to Plymouth dockyard. Mum went to a local primary school, but was transferred to Devonport High School – in a blue summer dress, while everyone else was in a brown uniform!

Devonport High School for Girls (1940). [2]

Early that first term,  as far as Mum can remember, Devonport High School was evacuated to Tiverton, but she stayed in Plymouth and went to Plymouth Emergency High School. Before the evacuation, Mum remembered crossing one of the quadrangles and being fired on from an aeroplane. She also remembered a land-mine landing just in front of the school one night.

For a while, mum and her mother slept out of town at Bere Ferrers to avoid the worst bombing, although that didn’t last long. She remembered watching incendiaries being dropped in fields opposite the family home, also hearing explosions when a fort nearby was hit, and, going up a road close by to witness Plymouth on fire from end to end!

In Spring 1945, Mum had some 6 weeks off school with scarlet fever – during that time,she says: “I read a book called ‘Stepping Heavenwards’ and it helped me, as I’d been lacking assurance (I was never sure that I was truly converted).” After that time Mum returned to school in time for School Certificate at Plymouth Emergency High School.

St. Budeaux Parish Church.[5]

Mum and her family continued living in Higher St. Budeaux during the war and going to St. Budeaux Parish Church and she went to Sunday School there too. Come Summer 1945, the war ended and life returned somewhat to as it had been. Mum returned to Devonport High School;  In her own words: “I think mornings only to start with, I went into the 6th Form and was over zealous for the Lord – nevertheless a number of girls came to know Him, both at school and other friends too. Miss Moore, the head at that time, asked me what I wanted to do and I said I didn’t mind as long as it was what God wanted! She called another teacher and I had to repeat myself. Later, I presumed they were both Christians.”

Just a bit later, with a new head, Miss Vale, interviewing Nana, she said, ‘I’d be alright when I got rid of the Youth for Christ’ nonsense. Mum says, “I was so thankful it was my mother, who was a Christian and not one of the other girls’ parents, who weren’t Christians.”

Mum organised a group of students who used to meet, before school, in the Physics lab dark room to pray once a week. She had three years in the 6th Form and then went to Stockwell Teacher Training College in Bromley, Kent to train for teaching. At that time is was a 2 year course.

While at college, she was involved with the Christian Union and held responsible positions both in the hostel (1st year) and then in college. During this time, the Christian Union booked General Dobbie to speak, but as he was such an important person, the Principal made it a compulsory lecture for the whole college, so everyone heard his testimony.

In the Summer holiday before the second year’s training it was expected that you’d do some teaching practice. However, if you were to help lead a holiday camp, that would count, so Mum opted to help at a Church Pastoral Aid camp in the South of England.

Following college, Mum started teaching Reception Class in West Park Primary, Plymouth and also took on responsibility for Plymouth National Young Life Campaign and she was baptised (by full immersion) and went to St. Budeaux Baptist to worship. As Garpe was not happy to use public transport on Sundays – the family used to walk to and fro to church. At this time, she was very involved with Open-air work and preaching on the Baptist Lay Preachers plan. Open-air work was Saturday night in the red-light district in Plymouth, while Sunday afternoons they hired p.a. equipment and went to beaches – Kings and Cawsand, etc.

After 18 months teaching, which Mum says she thoroughly enjoyed – sometimes 50+ in class. Mum applied to go nursing 18 months ahead, but live at home (her parents had never wanted Mum to nurse! She applied early so that they would get used to the idea). However, Mum failed the medical!! Although she was later accepted.

Proof that Mum worked as a nurse can be found in the Ladybird Book of Nursing! In this picture, Mum is on the left holding the lantern over the piano. [4]

Mum says: “All except one person thought I was stepping out of God’s will in going nursing! It was not easy to start with, but again despite a lot of ups and downs, overall I enjoyed it. While nursing, often when I had an evening off, I would phone a friend of ours at the Royal Engineering College near home, and invite any Christians to come round for a time of fellowship (prayer, bible study and refreshments). I’d collect any nurses interested as well. It was at this time that Fred first appeared.”

Mum moved round from different hospitals and wards, for experience, including the Fever hospital, sometimes having to walk several miles to start work at 7.30am! She completed her studies with the Gold Medal and a Nursing Prize. Later, she got the midwifery prize too. In those days for midwifery you did 6 months in different departments in the hospital and then 6 months on the district, working with a midwife and always on call.

Having done S.R.N. and S.C.M. Mum wondered what God would have her do. Mum says: “Church reckoned I was going to the mission field! I applied to go back teaching, but was turned down!! A job opened up to teach at a school for cerebral palsy children and they were thrilled to have me.”

Dad (Fred) appeared back on the scene (some years later now) and during late 58 and early 59, Mum says: “We felt we should marry – hence on 1st August 1959, we married and had Psalm 34:3 ‘Let us exalt his name together’ engraved in our rings as that was what we hoped our marriage would do.”

Mum and Dad set up home in a flat near Altrincham, buying a house in mid-December in Altrincham as well. They had folks staying for Christmas too!! Dad was working for Shell and Mum taught in a primary school at that time. Roger arrived in May 1960. He was born in the local hospital on Sinderland Road, just round the corner; as was Gill some 19 months later, on 27th December 1961.

At this time they worshipped at Devonshire Road Evangelical Church (which was Brethren based).Devonshire Road Evangelical Church in the early 21st Century. The old building which we attended and which abutted the old Ice Rink in Altircham has long gone.

Each Christmas from 1960 on, for 11 years, they had both sets of parents and Fred’s younger sister, Christine, to stay. Mum and Dad thought that they might change the pattern, but then one of them was not well, so the pattern changed anyway.

In January 1965, until the end of that year, Dad went to Bolton each day to study for a teaching certificate. It was 2nd May that year that David was born by Caesarian Section at Wythenshawe Hospital. Mum says: “He didn’t make his own way into the world as he had a broader head than Roger and Gill. Roger and Gill stayed with Fred’s Mum and Dad for the spring of that year.”

Amazingly, having had no income for the year, after Dad had finished at Bolton, Mum and Dad bought their first car – a Reliant 3-wheeler van, which Dad drove on a motor-cycle licence. There was no reverse gear in these Reliant’s and there were a few occasions on holiday in rural areas when some awkward moments occurred when on narrow lanes other drivers expected Dad to reverse out of their way.

Kingston-upon-Hull was Dad’s first teaching post, starting at the beginning of January 1966. We all moved house after Christmas, from Altrincham to Willerby, on the outskirts of Hull, just in time for Dad to start at the college at the beginning of term. This happene,” says Mum, “thanks to me ringing our buyer’s solicitor just before Christmas, as the solicitors were sitting on the papers and we could not move – the Solicitor’s comment to our buyers was ‘That woman rang me up!’ Our buyer was grateful anyway.”

Roger and Gill went to school further down Carr Lane, where we were living. It was in October 1966 that Ian was born at Beverley. He had been elbow and cord presenting, but was delivered breach under anaesthetic. The Doctors reckoned that Mum should not have any more children as she had been through most of the midwife’s textbook! (What would it have been like to have younger siblings after Ian?

While we lived in Hull we worshipped at Walton Street Gospel Hall. Mum was involved with an evangelistic team that visited Hull prison and the mental hospital in Willerby. The picture above shows Walton Street at the approximate location of the Gospel Hall which now seems to have been removed. It stood opposite the fairground where the Nottingham Goose Fair came each year.

It was in 1970 that we moved to Braintree, Essex. Dad had accepted a position as a Senior lecturer at the technical College in Chelmsford. We sold our home in Willerby and the furniture went into store. Dad started his job and looked for a property for us. Meanwhile, with the children, Mum moved in with Nana, in Tonbridge. We found a 5-bedroomed house and eventually moved in, in Braintree.

We applied to the primary school in Braintree, hoping that Roger, Gill and David would be admitted there. Ian was still too young for school. A letter arrived from the school and Mum feared they weren’t able to accept the children, but it was to ask her to teach a class of Junior age children. She didn’t really want to refuse in case it was what God had planned, but she did rather hope that the Education Authority would not accept her!!!

Manor Road Primary School, Braintree Essex. Roger can remember: playing in the playground; teachers names such as Mr West and Mr Broad; being forced by the school bully to suport Arsenal and then discovering that they had won the double.

In September of that year, Roger, Gill, David and Ian all started with Mum at the school. Ian in Reception class! Mum says: “Over all I think we coped until Fred accepted a post in Kings Lynn. That was after a couple of years. His post was for Head of Department – we weren’t sure what we should do as a family. However, we thought if I applied for a job in Kings Lynn and got it then we’d take it that we should all move.”

Sprite Major Caravan from the early 1970s.

Mum continues: “Then started a bit of a picnic!?! We couldn’t sell our house (that’s a story in itself). So we bought a towing caravan that would cater for 6 of us and moved to Kings Lynn on a caravan site in Pentney, outside Kings Lynn.”

From Monday to Friday we all lived in the caravan, going back to Braintree for weekends to get the washing done. After a few weeks, a memo came round the schools about a school house, available to rent at Terrington St. Clements. We rented it, taking our caravan with us and moving some furniture up from Braintree – eventually our Braintree house sold and we bought a new four-bedroom house on the outskirts of Kings Lynn, near the new hospital.During this time we worshipped at Seabank Chapel. Dad led the Covenantors and Mum was in the Sunday School. She was Area Secretary for Scripture Union and helped with Crusaders on Fairstead Estate and at Sandringham.Life continued quite busily. Mum and Dad offered for her mother (Nana) to come and live with us after her father died in 1968, but it wasn’t until 1980 that she felt that she’d had enough in Tonbridge. We had a Granny flat built and two extra bedrooms over the top – so that all the children had their own bedroom. Mum became a part-time teacher at Pott Row (before that she’d taught at Rosebery Avenue).Rosebery Avenue Primary School. [6]

After Pott Row, she taught for a while at a private school (where Princess Diana had been a pupil), and at the same time at a special school for ESN children, as the school hours were different.

Mum says: “Fred retired at the end of 1985, I think. I had already retired by then. We wondered what the Lord would have us do. After various opportunities, we left Kings Lynn and moved to rural Oxfordshire to look after 14 bungalows for Datchet Evangelical Fellowship. We had No. 12 and Nana, No. 11. They had been built for retired missionaries and full-time Christian workers.” The family had more-or-less all left home by then.The Red Lion in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, the village was dominated by thatched properties.

After about 6 months to a year after arriving in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, the pastor at the little chapel resigned as he had a nervous breakdown. Mum says: “We then led the little church for about 7 years until they appointed a full-time worker. About the same time, Datchet Evangelical Fellowship decided to sell the bungalows and Nana died at the age of 99.”

Mum continues: “What next Lord? … We moved to our little place in Didcot and worshipped at East Hanney Mission. In the meanwhile we were sorting out ready to go to Lusaka, Zambia with Africa Evangelical Fellowship, officially for Fred to be a Town and Travel Manager. I usually helped, but also, we provided meals for missionaries passing through Lusaka and did clinics and radio work when missionaries had gone home for furlough. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Africa.”

Part way through the time, Mum came back through the U.K. to Pakistan, as Gill was expecting their third child and giving birth in the Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi. They had a 2-bed room and Mum was able to sleep in the bed next to Gill. The surgery was good, but the nursing left a lot to be desired!

After Mum returned to Zambia, she was not well. In looking back, it was due to endeavouring to remove burglar wires and decorate our bungalow. Mum says: “At the time the missionary doctor thought I had a brain tumour. I came to the U.K. for tests, etc. and Fred delights to tell people that the Neurological Hospital in London could find nothing … no brain!! I did join Fred again in Lusaka and we completed our 2 year stint.”

Returning to the UK, Mum and Dad felt that they should look for a town, not to large, where there was a hospital and shopping centre and where they could do something useful. Retford seemed to fit the bill and they were able to help at Book Aid, part-time. They lived in Mattersey Thorpe and worshipped in Bawtry at the Evangelical Church.At this stage Mum and Dad were fairly active, but thought it was time to consider their Home-call (Mum’s words) and after much prayer and thought moved to a bungalow in Auchlochan – a Christian retirement complex, having several buildings catering for different stages of old age, including full care, if necessary. Mum and Dad had one of the bungalows at the right-hand side of the above plan.

Mum says: “We did enjoy it, but one problem was accessibility to hospitals in Glasgow or Edinburgh. So, when I was not well, we felt we should come back to England. From first thinking this to moving in at Royd Court in Mirfield (a Pilgrim Home) it was about 3 months. We sold the bungalow, got rid of loads of books, furniture, etc., bought a two-bedroom flat in a Pilgrim Homes Independent Living Complex! What a blessing – had an excellent doctor across the road who set the ball rolling for me to go to St. James’ Hospital in Leeds for major surgery for removal of a cancerous growth – a Whipples operation. This operation was really successful.”

Mum concludes her own notes by saying that they worshipped at Batley Evangelical Church and have been very blessed and encouraged there. Since Mum wrote those notes a few years ago, she has suffered from womb cancer and most recently from the effects of secondaries from the womb cancer on her lungs.

Once Mum had her diagnosis and had been told that there was little that could be done for her, she began to put her affairs in order and until very recently used the time God left her in ministry within the confines of Royd Court. Mum was greatly looking forward to what she called her ‘home-call’.

As a family, we have seen the love and care that Mum and Dad have experienced in the immediate communities to which they have belonged in the Mirfield area, at Royd Court and at Batley Evangelical Church. And we are grateful to all who have provided care for Mum in these last few months.

References

  1. https://www.webbaviation.co.uk, accessed first on 1st August 2016.
  2. https://www.dhsg.co.uk/gallery/?pid=113&gcatid=1&albumid=7 accessed on 13th November 2018.
  3. https://www.architecture.com/image-library/RIBApix/gallery-product/poster/former-stockwell-teachers-training-college-in-the-grounds-of-bromley-civic-centre-stockwell-close-br/posterid/RIBA58194.html?tab=print, accessed on 13th November 2018.
  4. https://www.jenniferslittleworld.com/2013/10/ladybird-tuesday-people-at-work-nurse.html, accessed on 13th November 2018.
  5. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Budeaux, accessed on 13th November 2018.
  6. http://www.kingslynn-forums.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=3512&start=60, accessed first on 1st August 2016.