• Be there and love me 11 December 2017 | View comments

  • 11th December 2017 | By David Jolley

    The first response to my card asking people who attend the Drop In at Bowdon Vale:

    ‘Will you write a list of any things you feel this church could do for the village please?’

    Is encouraging in that it has come quickly. It lists: sing along, table tennis, beetle drive, cards, dominoes, film show. These are all simply social activities which might expand from what we do at the Drop In.

    There is nothing about spiritual life. Perhaps this a consequence of inadequate wording in the question or the context in which it was given. I did not want to be directive. It may be that people were just assuming the religious and spiritual would be ‘understood’ – that is what churches do.

    Thursday’s Manchester Evening News includes an article p 28 about Audacious Church in Salford. https://audaciouschurch.com/ This but is new to me though we have looked at similar phenomena with origins amongst students of the university in Manchester. The MEN article tells of plans for ‘A cathedral’ to accommodate 2,400 in its auditorium. The current building provides three services each Sunday for a total of 5,000+ worshippers. This is clearly a different world and I wonder quite what it is about. The plans include dance, sound and TV studios, offices for staff and management, business units, a well-being centre offering counselling, debt advice, mental well-being classes, a children’s church, activity rooms and a gym. There will be space for indoor sports, a prayer chapel and a rooftop garden. Something like a Trafford Centre of faith.

    In Paul Smith’s first article in The Methodist Recorder October 20th, he addresses the question of how to grow: First has to be desire, then intention and the development of a vision which informs a strategy: ‘discovering the unique place we have to play in God’s purpose’.

    ‘In growing churches there is always a strong emphasis on spiritual nurture’

    ‘Vibrant public worship is indispensable’

    ‘Consistency of pulpit ministry is important’

    I am thinking on these things in the context of my own ill-ease about falling congregations in churches, and the poverty of services for people who are unwell including people with dementia and their families.

    Major cardiac surgery for children and young people living in Manchester will no longer be available in Manchester – The specialist centre here will close and Liverpool is our nearest centre.

    My friend Robert has to travel to Salford to be seen by a neurologist.

    I have to have a routine blood test as part of my annual cardiac/blood pressure review. Simple thing a blood test – takes about 10 minutes maximum. First attendance at the clinic – there are no appointments - advised I will have to wait 90 minutes to be seen. Next day advised 120 minutes. Finally I have my blood taken after waiting an hour at another clinic on the last day of the week. This is the ultimate in treating human beings as objects to be processed with no thought for their convenience and well-being. Everything is dictated by the needs of the big organisations which are getting bigger and progressively less close and responsive to their communities. My personal irritation is small compared with the inconvenience and exhaustion which this scheme inflicts on people who are iller than I am and require repeated blood tests to check on progress and blood levels of dangerous medication. The talk is of ‘person-centred’ services. The reality is far from this.

    The networks of churches and chapels which characterise this and other countries are currently underused for what might be expected to be their main purposes: spiritual nurture and development, strengthening and confirming the faith of individuals and fellowships.

    The answers to my question to friends at the Drop In may mean that such concepts are not uppermost in the minds of older people in 2017.

    ‘Where have you gone to my lovely?’ Have we been sucked dry of awareness of our special being by the systems which deny us this?

    People are pained when they are ill and faced with prospects of suffering and worse – only to find that their humanity is set at very little by the systems sponsored and employed to help them at such times.

    I cannot see how personal spiritual nurture and development, strengthening and confirming of faith can be achieved by monstrous mega-super-store churches (cathedrals).

    Health will come more surely and successfully by better stewardship of networks which have their origins in the histories of local townships and their populations – Health spiritual, Health social, Health psychological, and Health physical.

    In all of this I marvel at the wisdom of one of our Conversationalists who, when asked what is most helpful to a person with dementia, said quietly: ‘Be there and love me.’

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