Resourcing the spiritual journey of older people

Fourth annual Network Gathering

Delegates at the 2018 Network Gathering

Delegates at the 2018 Network Gathering

Feedback has been glowing from the 50 people who attended the fourth annual The Gift of Years network gathering, held this October at the Hayes Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire.

Each year the gathering moves around the country. ‘We’ve come a long way since a dozen of us met at Waverley Abbey in Surrey in 2014,’ said The Gift of Years Team Leader, Debbie Thrower.

Facing it

This year, for the first time, the gathering had a theme: ‘Facing it’. We thought about the different faces of Jesus in our daily reflection times, and considered what the face can tell us about a person. How can we help ourselves and others to ‘face’ situations given that so much of the ageing process is about coming to terms with various aspects of life? And what of our own faces? If we are bearers of the image of God, what does this tell us about the nature and characteristics of God?

Among other elements of the three days, our members especially appreciated Ann Persson’s worship sessions - giving a ‘retreat’ flavour to this year’s conference – and a lively session on the distinctive spirituality of older men was most-ably (and bravely?) led by Brian Dunlop from Cheltenham.

Helen Jesty's talk at the 2018 Network Gathering

Helen Jesty's talk at the 2018 Network Gathering

There were talks on the importance of taking care of oneself while ministering to vulnerable people from the now-retired Anna Chaplain, Helen Jesty, and BRF author Caroline George gave much useful advice on leading worship in care homes based on her own wealth of experience as a storyteller and her book Living Liturgies (BRF, 2015).

Three practical workshops on training and supporting volunteers, forging partnerships and seeking funding, and delivering Messy Vintage successfully across a wide range of ages and cognitive abilities (run by Lindsay Pelloquin, Sally Nevitt and Jill Phipps respectively) were also much appreciated by delegates.

Lindsay Pelloquin's talk at the 2018 Network Gathering

Lindsay Pelloquin's talk at the 2018 Network Gathering

 Jill Phipps demonstrating Messy Vintage

Jill Phipps demonstrating Messy Vintage

A close-up of the Messy Vintage activity

A close-up of the Messy Vintage activity

Catriona Foster from St John’s Church Harborne, Birmingham, used ‘actors’, much to everyone’s amusement, to illustrate the types of imaginative courses or ‘Faith Chats’ she has run in recent years, each designed to deepen discipleship among those post-retirement.

Actors during Catriona Foster's session

Actors during Catriona Foster's session

The actors getting a well-earned break after their performance

The actors getting a well-earned break after their performance

Feedback

Here are some of the comments people made about the value of the national network getting together in this way:

  • ‘The Gathering was the best yet, I have come back so inspired and refreshed! Thank you.’
  • ‘Another brilliant gathering. It is so good to meet with others from across the country and share ideas, concerns, etc. and to realise that a problem you have is not an isolated problem or frustration but one that is being experienced with others.’
  • ‘The input was really professional and stimulating - aren’t we all lucky to be part of such a gifted network, with such a wealth of experience, passion and expertise!’
  • ‘A huge thank you to all those who have organised the gathering – it was truly the best conference I have been to for a long time. In my opinion all the elements of the gathering were just right. I loved the worship and prayer led by Ann and also that Debbie specifically prayed for certain people who are facing new challenges. I was amazed at the expertise which is building up in the network itself and the fact that most of the speakers and sessions were a sharing of this internal expertise.’
  • ‘It was a truly wonderful conference and I felt it to be a privilege to have some input. What a wise, caring and receptive bunch of people - and so many goodies to share with one another. They are the fruit of the vision and ministry that God has inspired in Debbie and Alex.’
  • ‘Honestly, I thought the conference was a triumph! So much appreciated by everyone I spoke with.’
  • ‘I greatly enjoyed listening to some inspiring talks and speakers. Caroline George was amazing! Good to have seen you both and chatting with old and making new friends.’

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