• Ageing and Spirituality Research Seminar Luther King House 23rd November 2017 27 November 2017 | View comments

  • 27th November 2017 | By David Jolley

    A friendly and informative day with about 24 people – mostly ministers and chaplains working in the North West or near. 

    The ‘hellos’ gave me chance to mention our work at Bowdon Vale. I found I was sitting next to Kathy Deakin who now lives in Gnosall and knows our service there, she is a recently retired chaplain. Graham Hawley was to attend his PhD viva during the afternoon – everyone wished him success. We heard in brief from many initiatives. Interesting to me was an Irishman called O’Hanlon (not remembered his first name, though I had time talking with him). He is an artist working with churches in Wales – it reminded me of my friends at STAA.  http://www.staa.org.uk/index.html and this chap knows STAA and their leader Sharon Baker. I wonder if we might look at something like this.

    The first session was led by Clare McBeath (Rev Dr) https://www.northern.org.uk/Groups/261879/NBC/About_Us/Our_Staff/Clare_McBeath/Clare_McBeath.aspx

    She spoke of her work with the Centre for Theology and Justice http://www.theologyjustice.org/

    Some work relates to situations in the wider world – she cited Greece and Uganda – but also challenges to the churches in the UK to consider injustices and to take action. She referred to Foodbanks and the issues of poverty and inequality, the plights and rights of people without voices in this country. (The suggestion was made that older people, people with dementia do not have a voice)

    She commended the book – Journey into Justice:  https://journeyintojusticebook.wordpress.com/ (I cannot speak about it myself)

    She went on to reference Pope Francis’ approach and reflections on his ’Church of the poor’ www.amazon.co.uk/Church-Poor-Francis-Transformation-Orthodoxy/dp/1626982066

    and she spoke about the creation of an anti-monopoly game – I am not sure this is it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fm1jL_OVd_g but we got the idea.

    She celebrated The People’s History Museum http://www.phm.org.uk/ We should organise a visit and follow this with reflections and action.

    She encouraged the idea of employing an Artist in Residence such as our friend from Ireland who is opening doors in Wales. We could do that.

    Next was Christopher Swift (Rev Dr) www.mha.org.uk/about-mha/management-and-governance/ (best I can do)

    Chris is the new Director of Ageing and Spirituality and has an impressive CV in chaplaincy and Ministry. He began by telling us about Tithonus www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Mortals/Tithonus/tithonus.html - advertising the nightmare of wishing for immortality without taking into account what happened to the ageing body and brain. He readily fell into the theme of the ageing of society and the burden of prolonged dependency which goes with it. I shall point him to: ‘Apocalypse: No’: https://socialsciences.mcmaster.ca/sedap/p/sedap59.pdf

    Chris wondered what might be the important questions to be asking – Looking for a corporate approach to research by MHA.  His thoughts were:

    How to we engage with the variegated and changing community which is older people? (Something like that)

    In what ways can we maximise resources? Or maybe ‘can we maximise the effective use of available resources’?

    Several people offered their ideas.

    Mine would be:

    What is the relationship between MHA homes and community services and their local Methodist Churches?

    Chaplaincy: is the vision to be confined to providing chaplaincy to MHA Homes? All care homes are best seen to be hospices where residents and families have similar needs to those who are fortunate to be with MHA.

    Most residents of MHA Homes are self-funding, because the costs are higher than Local Authorities will/can pay. What are the consequences for poorer old people who have been regular worshippers within a local Methodist community – and may have helped support a MHA Home? How does this situation equate with justice?

    Chris commended the work of John Swinton and Harriett Mowat of Aberdeen University www.abdn.ac.uk/sdhp/personnel-185.php https://scmpress.hymnsam.co.uk/books/9780334049883/practical-theology-and-qualitative-research---second-edition

    In terms of relating to residents and older people in general, Chris’s advice is: ‘Bring your bag – And the residents will take it.’ Needs thinking about – but not for too long!

    After lunch Alma Fritchley reported on experiences collected and analysed for her BA Thesis. She is a down to earth person with a sense of humour: ‘After a short working experience (36 years) at the Inland Revenue, I found myself free to do something different’. The something different was to engage in study at Luther King House. This led to her beginning to spend time on a voluntary basis at a large local Care Home, which had been taken over by MHA. Firstly shadowing the chaplain, I think she was then employed as an assistant. Her study looks at the feelings of care staff when a resident dies. She opened with Nina Simone: Another Spring www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/ninasimone/anotherspring.html

    She spoke of ‘disenfranchised fragments’ and ‘residual fragments’, and ‘corporate grief’. From the perspective of staff, loss by death at the home, though saddening, is preferred to loss by transfer to die somewhere else.  An impressive and thought-provoking presentation.

    The final lead presentation came from Kathryn Lord and Carrie Twist, speaking enthusiastically about their Godly Play project in Sheffield https://godlyplaymutualblessings.wordpress.com/about/godly-play-in-elderly-and-dementia-care-settings/

    This is something we have some experience of. Sheffield is clearly making much more of it and there is much to learn of this a mode of communication and opening time and space for people who are otherwise too anxious or full of doubts, to share their feelings, memories, hopes and suggestions. This – like the idea of an artist giving time and space – emerged for me as the major theme and stimulation of the day. Reference to the writings of Jerome Berryman whose invention Godly Play is.


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