Carers – your experiences are needed

Do you care for, or support, someone living with dementia in England? Have they visited an A&E department, or been admitted to hospital in the past 2 years?

If so, the University of Bradford and Alzheimer’s Society would like to hear about your experience

For more information and to access the short survey visit:

or e-mail:

Eastertide News

“The Church has a vital role in helping to counter the undervaluation of older people.  At a parish level, this means providing more opportunities for all generations to meet together and value one another.”

+Right Reverend Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds


We are delighted that our Guide for parishes on learning from and caring for older people will be published in May.  This Guide is free and contains practical ideas and case studies to support church communities in valuing older people and benefiting from their gifts.

You are invited to join us for an evening reception to launch the Guide on Thursday 4th May, 6.30pm-8.00pm at Leeds Church Institute, 20 New Market Street, Leeds LS1 6DG. RSVP: or call Rachel on 0770 225 5142.


We are also going on tour round the Diocese to launch the Guide.  To arrange a visit to your parish to explore responses to the challenges and opportunities that an ageing Eucharistic community presents, or to find out more, please get in touch.

Melting into God: Mortality, Resurrection and Everlasting Life

Pippa Bonner is a trustee of Growing Old Grace-fully.   Pippa recently retired from hospice work in Leeds where she ran a bereavement service.

Pippa has written a moving and illuminating personal reflection that is particularly relevant at this time.


“During Lent and Easter we are reminded of mortality, resurrection and eternal life.  Their juxtaposition appears throughout the Church Year in our liturgy at Mass, and our own lived experience of loss, recovery, resilience and understanding about eternal life. “…  here is Pippa’s full article Melting into God Mortality, Resurrection and Everlasting Life by Pippa Bonner


Dementia in the spotlight

Have you heard that this week is Dementia Prayer Week, spearheaded by Birmingham’s Pastoral Care Project?

Bishop David McGough, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham says: “Prayer is one very powerful way of connecting with all concerned. Let us pray for and with those whose lives have been touched by dementia. In this way we unite ourselves with them, forging a link with the Lord that words alone cannot express.”

Libby Wattis in The Cleverest Thief

It is my experience that people with dementia have a lot to teach about the joys and challenges of paying attention to where I am, moment by moment.  Last week, I saw a play called “The Cleverest Thief” a powerful one-woman show about the journey of dementia.  The play did touch on the potentially transformative effect of a momentary encounter and how ‘the moment’ is vital in maintaining a relationship with people living with dementia.



Dear God, I spend so much time reliving yesterday
or anticipating tomorrow
that I lose sight of the only time that is really mine,
the present moment.
You give today one moment at a time.
That’s all I have,
all I ever will have. Amen.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Leeds Homeshare is a scheme that aims to prove the opening words of Psalm 133 to be true.


The scheme carefully matches an older person, who might need some help to live independently in their own home, with someone who has a housing need.  In  return for providing low cost accommodation, the older person gets a minimum of 10 hours of help with daily living tasks like cleaning, shopping, gardening or  walking the dog.

But it’s really about companionship, about living with someone in unity and, as the Psalm says, it can be so ‘good and pleasant’.  It can help older people stay independent and in their own home for longer and offers companionship and new relationships for both the homeowner and the homesharer.

It’s a safe and supported arrangement, with Shared Lives in Adult Social Care taking references, checks and assessments to help ensure risk and safeguarding issues are well managed.

If you have a spare room and would be interested in having a chat about this, with no obligations, then please call Cath Ormerod on 0113 378 5410 or email  More details can be found here Homeowner leaflet .

Times of Waiting

In the course of our life, many of us will experience periods of hospitalisation, which also carry with them a loss of control. And nearly everyone has to spend some time as an out-patient.  The longer we live, the more likely we are to find ourselves in hospital. But whether an in-patient or an out-patient, it inevitably means we are forced to spend a lot of time waiting.

Mgr Peter Rosser, a trustee of Growing Old Grace-fully, was asked to give a talk about “Time from the perspective of a patient” where he reflects on his own experience of spending time waiting at the disposal of medical personnel.  Here is an excerpt:


“Recently I came across a CTS pamphlet entitled ‘Five Loaves and Two Fish’ .  It contains a series of 7 reflections by Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan written during his imprisonment in Vietnam.  At one point he realised that he was enduring the hours of imprisonment as lost time while he awaited release.  It led him to see that the hours of waiting could be valuable in themselves.


In his book “Road of Hope” written during his incarceration, he wrote “I will not wait. I will live the present moment, filling it to the brim with love”.  He goes on “Only one moment exists for you in all its beauty and that is the present moment.  Live it completely in the love of God.  If your life is built up like a large crystal from millions of such moments, it will be a wonderfully beautiful life.  Can’t you see how easy it could be?”


V H Vanstone in his book ‘The Stature of Waiting’ develops a similar and very pertinent reflection. He develops the point that after three years of active ministry, in a position of control over his life and decisions, Jesus then voluntarily allows himself to be handed into the power of others.  At this point he becomes a waiting figure, waiting on others’ decisions and actions.  He becomes utterly vulnerable and a true expression of the full cost of unconditional love.


This perception throws an entirely new light on our experiences of waiting and of dependence. The situation of waiting is generally resented: it is regarded as frustrating, and considered a diminution of man’s proper status.  But given that we are made in the image of God and called to reveal his nature through faithfully imaging Him in our world, our times of waiting, of being in the control of others and thus utterly vulnerable, take on new significance and importance.


In our activity we reveal God’s loving, creative activity on behalf of this world. But in our passivity (our waiting) we reveal to the world the equally important passivity of God which is the ultimate expression of his unconditional love.  Our waiting takes on a whole new stature and meaning.”


Here is the whole transcript of Fr Peter’s talk, Healthcare Talk January 2017 Fr Peter Rosser


Richest Blessings for Christmas

lovecamedown-picLove came down at Christmas,

Love all lovely, love divine,

Love was born at Christmas,

Star and angels gave the sign.

Christine Rossetti (1830-94)


Dear friend

The period before Christmas can be a particularly busy one.  Here at Growing Old Grace-fully we too have been swept up in the busyness as we have been developing a pack of ideas for and from parishes to help in “Welcoming Older People” which we are hoping to launch early in 2017.

We want this pack of ideas to inspire practical actions that support the growth of later life friendly parishes in our own Diocese of Leeds, as well as beyond our Diocese.  It is our hope and our prayer that this pack really makes a positive difference when it comes to support older people and valuing their gifts.  Every topic we consider focuses on “What your parish can do” in a variety of areas including:

  • Vocation in Later Life
  • Growing a Dementia-Friendly Parish
  • Being Mortal
  • Tackling Loneliness
  • Caring for Carers.

We are so grateful to have been given a generous donation towards the production of this pack by The Grail Society.  This means we can get the pack designed and laid out to make it easy to use.  We aim to have printed packs available by Spring 2017, and we hope the 8 Chapters will be available even earlier for downloading on our website.  We will make sure we let you know when they are ready, as well as how to get your copy.

In last year’s Christmas Newsletter, we included an excerpt from a talk by John Bell of the Iona Community who made the surprising statement that “Advent and Christmas are about old people”.

Last Christmas Day, on Radio 4’s “Thought for the Day”, John developed this idea in more detail.  He spoke about preaching at midnight mass in Dundee when he asked the congregation:

3-wise-kids“I wonder who among us was once a shepherd?  I wonder who among us was once a wise man?  There was an outburst of laughter when I asked who had once been the hind legs of the donkey.”

John continues:

“For many people, their introduction to the Christmas story will have been through taking part as a child in a school or church nativity play. Maybe this explains the origin of the phrase, ‘Christmas is a time for the children.’

 The irony of it all is that there are no children with leading roles in the Christmas story. Jesus was not born in a kindergarten surrounded by infants wearing their father’s dressing gown or their mother’s tea towels.

 3-wise-menMost of the main players are old – Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon and Anna have their elderly status clearly underscored in the Bible. The Shepherds would not be toddlers; and the wise men wouldn’t be wise unless they were old. In those days wisdom did not come through attaining a Ph.D in your mid-twenties.

 The Christmas story is, rather, about God expecting older people to enable a new and surprising thing to happen.

 I saw this truth alive and well last week when I visited a Roman Catholic church hall which has become the welcome centre for Syrian refugees. Most of those helping out were retired.  None had experience of relating to Arabic speaking Muslims before. But like the people in the nativity story they felt somehow summoned to welcome and enable a new thing to happen.

 So if you once were a shepherd or an angel or even the hind legs of the donkey, don’t let Christmas simply be a time for regression therapy…..particularly when now as always, God is looking for older people to be the midwives of the new things that need to happen.”

John Bell, Christmas Day 2015, Radio 4


Warmest thanks for your interest in and support of our work across the Diocese.

 We wish all Growing Old Grace-fully’s friends and supporters God’s richest blessings for Christmas and the coming year.

Pippa Bonner, Trustee             Carol Burns, Chair                Anne Forbes, Trustee

Paul Grafton, Trustee      Cath Mahoney, Trustee              Mgr Peter Rosser, Trustee

Rachel Walker, Project Worker             Ann West, Trustee


Thank you to our Trustees

This week, 31st October-6th November, is Trustee’s Week and I want to say a massive


to all our trustees for their enthusiasm and commitment, as well as the skills and wisdom they have brought to direct Growing Old Grace-fully‘s work in the Diocese.

More discussion

Paul, Ann, Anne, Carol, Pippa, Cath and Fr Peter are all volunteers and all bring different skills  and experience to the role, but they all share a desire to support parishes in welcoming older people.

If you also believe we should cherish the blessings of age and think parishes need more support to help value the gifts of older people, then I would love to talk to you.  We are looking for Trustees to help make a difference at an exciting time as we develop new ideas and deliver new projects.  The role would require about 4 hours a month of your time. 

For more information please email me at or call me on 07702 255142.

Rachel, Project Development Officer

Can you put a value on Grandparenting?

Where would we be without grandparents, who deliver an estimated £7.3 billion of free childcare each year (Grandparents Plus & Age UK Report, May 2013).

pope-francis-and-older-personPope Francis marked Italy’s Grandparents’ Day on 2nd October with a reception of older people and their carers.   Here is an excerpt from his speech:

“The Church regards the elderly with affection, gratitude, and high esteem. They are an essential part of the Christian community and of society: in particular they represent the roots and the memory of a people.”

“I think of how many you make yourselves available in parishes for a truly valuable service: some of you are dedicated to decorating the house of the Lord, others as catechists, leaders of the liturgy, others as witnesses to charity. And what about their role in the family? How many grandparents care for grandchildren, simply by passing on to children the experience of life, the spiritual and cultural values of a community and a people!

Grandparents’ Day was introduced in the UK in 1990 by Age Concern, but has never really taken off here.  Perhaps we should celebrate the value of Grandparenting in our parishes on the 26th July on the Feast of St Anne and St Joachim – Mary’s parents and so the Grandparents of Jesus.  If your parish does something special to remember Grandparents on this day, or at any other time, please let us know here at Growing Old Grace-fully.  We’d love to share it with other parishes.

I leave you with the words of Pope Francis “Dear grandfathers and grandmothers, thank you for your example of love, dedication and wisdom. Continue with courage to bear witness to these values!”

Memory loss and the needs of the Irish community

Growing Old Grace-fully were so pleased to be invited to an event at Leeds Irish Centre by Leeds Irish Health & Homes, to hear the findings of some recent research into memory loss and the needs of the Irish community.

One of the findings of this research that struck home with me was the importance of being with people who understand our culture when we are living with dementia; people who speak our language either literally or figuratively speaking.  A friend told me that dementia took away her Polish-born mum’s ability to speak English, even though she was a fluent English speaker for 50 years, but her mum could still speak Polish.

You can read more about the event here

Being with people who understand our culture is part of feeling we belong.  It’s why we need to work hard to ensure that people who have been part of the parish life do not feel excluded if they develop dementia.   Please think about whether your parish could run a short session on Becoming a Dementia-Friendly Parish which Growing Old Grace-fully would be delighted to run.

Rachel Walker