Free courses on well-being and looking after your mental health

Leeds Recovery College is part of the NHS services in Leeds.

On their website they state:

‘We believe that good mental health is important to everyone and that we can all play a part in improving our own mental health and contributing to that of others.’

‘We offer free educational courses that focus on keeping us mentally and physically well. These courses have been co-designed and co-facilitated by people who have experienced their own mental health challenges, working alongside health professionals and education providers to share their knowledge and advice.  The aim of these courses is to help you learn more about mental health, work out what keeps yourself and others well, and find ways to enjoy life more.’

‘Our courses are attended by a range of people including those who experience mental health challenges, staff and carers who are looking to improve their knowledge, and people from across the city who would like to better look after their own wellbeing.’

The courses are free to attend
and you do not need a referral to take part.

Courses are open to any adults who live, work or study in Leeds and would like to learn more about mental wellbeing.  The courses are currently online or distance learning only, but face to face courses will be resumed when possible.

Click HERE for the list of current courses available.

Click HERE for a prospectus with more details about the courses
they normally run through the year.

To book on a course, you will be asked to complete a Recovery College enrolment form and email it to  They can also send you the enrolment form through the post, or if you call them on 0113 855 5127 they can complete the enrolment form with you over the phone.

If you would prefer a printed copy of the prospectus please email for details.


‘A Matter of Life and Death’- Autumn series of 4 online events

dead flower with seeds in a hand

We are excited to announce a series of 4 online events providing opportunities to talk openly about the subject of death and dying, rather than avoiding it as a taboo topic. We feel this is even more important in the wake of the devastating effects of the Covid-19 global pandemic during recent months.

The events are being organised and run as a partnership between Leeds Church Institute, Faith in Elderly People and Growing Old Grace-fully.

Here are the details of the events:

All are welcome at these online events; you may find them particularly helpful if you are supporting, visiting or caring for older people, the bereaved, or those nearing the end of life.

Format for the Events

We will kick off the series with a seminar type event with Dr Lynn Bassett being interviewed by Carol Burns, followed by opportunity to post questions in the chat function. This event can host a greater number of attendees.

The following 3 events will give more opportunity for discussion, and so may need to be limited to 30 people per event; if the events are oversubscribed we will keep a waiting list and consider planning further dates.

You can pick and choose which events to attend, there is no obligation to attend all 4 events as they are each stand-alone events in their own right.

A Second Reflection from an Older Person during Coronavirus-time

I wrote a Reflection in Covid 19 time at the end of March. Four months further on what have I, (what might we,) have learned since?

Looking back on it we have all travelled a long way since March.

At the end of July there are fewer newly infected people and fewer deaths in the UK, but the infection and death rates have been horrifyingly hard.

In other countries rates continue to rise, in some areas where war, poverty and the attitude of some country leaders to the Virus mean infection and death rates in parts of the globe are soaring.

We hope that Covid 19 decreases globally. Many lives have been irrevocably changed. In the UK some people are returning to work. Others have lost their jobs. Many of us can now go out more and our churches, shops and other facilities are opening.

I thank God for the tireless work of scientists, NHS staff, those working in care homes and other essential workers who have toiled thus far. And although some government decisions can be criticised I am grateful that I live in a democratic society where we aim for transparency, we can question what is happening and our health, social and educational services have standards of reasonable governance.

What has happened locally?  

Some of you may have been ill with the Virus, for many there have been life changes, people bereaved and grieving deeply for others who have died, without some of the usual parish community funerals, Requiem Masses, and supportive visits. Zoom and other internet facilities have helped but can only go so far. We hope that our parishes and communities will start to open up more. We also know that many of us are anxious, and worried about our and others’ future, finances, employment and young people’s education.

Many of our parishes and other organisations have been very busy supporting the bereaved, the sick, supporting foodbanks and giving grants for essentials. There have been networks of parishioners keeping in contact with older people, those living alone. families, the newly and chronically impoverished, the homeless, destitute asylum seekers.

Many people have prayed, phoned and supported each other as best we can. Kindness has been flourishing. Hugging does not suit everyone but how many of us have missed this….? 

In our organisations and parishes, we are beginning to think how we can come together in our communities and parishes to memorialise and support each other when the restrictions for Mass attendance and meeting each other are further lifted.

When I last wrote the air was clearer and spring growth was fresh and unfolding new colours and flowers every day. Now, many have returned to work, shops and parks, the school holidays have started, traffic noise has returned, and the deeper, established greens of high summer are around us. If people are able to go on holiday it is more likely be within the UK than abroad. We are fortunate to have sea and beautiful countryside not too far from us.

We are hopeful of finding an effective Vaccine after the final tests are done to ensure its safety and efficacy. Other countries are also exploring different types of vaccination. It is being acknowledged that we will need different vaccines and approaches in different situations.

Health workers are discovering new effective medical procedures to help the very sick, and existing medications are being used in different, effective ways to help more people survive and recover more quickly from the symptoms of the Virus. The pandemic we believe will pass but we will likely be living with spikes of the virus until a vaccine is proved to be safe and works.

Uncertainty remains. Vigilance, hand washing, social distancing, face-coverings and some curtailment of our freedoms is having to be negotiated.  Hopefully with measures like Track and Tracing any recurrence will more likely be spikes on a local basis that can be targeted and treated.

Being on the side-lines

One of the things I have had to learn as an older person is to be more on the side-lines. I am a retired Social Worker and accustomed to being in the midst of someone else’s crisis, bereavement or life changing situation. Now I have found other ways to try and support others. I still work part time in Pastoral Care and while I was furloughed I spent time phoning and emailing those I temporarily could not visit. I am also in touch with fellow parishioners and neighbours and have been very aware of the vulnerability and also the resilience, faith and courage of many I am contacting.

I have learned a lot about the daily courage of most people, particularly older people.

Many older people who are housebound have a wealth, wisdom and freedom of faith which is an anchor in the centre of the Church.

A lot of priests are now older and shielded and when our churches open again fully I hope that more, younger lay people will feel empowered to offer their gifts for parish communities and that their skills and fresh outlook will be considered and valued. And it is important to let younger people come forward, feel empowered and take their place at the forefront, as they are the future….

Roller Coaster of Emotions
I have been very aware of the ups and downs of coping with the challenges of the Virus in everyday life. Sometimes we can feel relieved to be well, safe, taking the struggles of family and friends in our stride. I am enjoying the extra time to read, walk, watch TV and reflect on the many spiritual resources on the internet.

At other times we might feel anxious, sad and despondent. But this is natural and it is important to be aware of our mood and take care of ourselves, as well as others.

For a helpful article on how we can cope with this roller coaster, click HERE

For those of us who attend Mass in we have needed to find ways of “attending” on the internet or phone. I know that many without a computer have read their missals, followed the Mass and the daily readings at home.

My own parish hasn’t been streaming Mass and our sister parish started a pre-recorded Mass after a few weeks. I started off watching “live” Masses at Leeds and Liverpool Cathedrals and eventually found a parish in Leicester where my mother lives. Although I was watching from 100 miles away I felt welcomed by a pastoral, inclusive parish priest who gave us interesting, supportive and inspiring homilies and prayers and the woman organist played her music and choir recordings that linked to the themes of the day. I haven’t missed receiving Communion as much as I thought I would, and I think my understanding of Eucharist has widened. At a time of feeling powerless to alter events I have mostly felt the presence of God in amidst the suffering and grief of so many people.

For details of where you can find Mass and prayers online click HERE

Pope Francis stood in an empty St Peter’s Square in Rome on the 27th March and said:

“This is a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to the Lord and others.”

Living in the moment

I concluded my first Reflection at the end of March with the thought that I hoped I,- we,- might be able to live more in the present: rather than yearning for the past – what might have been – or worry excessively about the future. I think more than ever that it is important to engage in and value the present.

Julian of Norwich, (here quoted by Joan Chittister, in ‘The Gift of Years -Growing Old Gracefully’ DLT London 2008) said that in the acorn she was holding is everything that ever was.

And Joan Chittister writes, “In that tiny burst of life were all the elements of all the life in the world. In this moment is the now of life, is everything we have ever been and will become. And it is calling us, now, to be that to its fullness, and even more.”

Covid 19 is ongoing – and so is our learning….

The impact of Covid-19 on 50-70 year olds – from the Centre for Ageing Better

A new report by Ipsos MORI and the Centre for Ageing Better shines a light on the impact lockdown has had on those aged 50-70, revealing dramatic changes to people’s lives and their plans for the future.  

The interesting short video above is a compilation of clips from people describing their own experiences, both negative and positive.

To watch some more short videos on specific aspects of the impact of Covid-19 such as health, housing and work, see this playlist on their Youtube channel

Ageing Better held a recent webinar focussing on the Neighbourhood Networks in Leeds and Birmingham – see the one hour recording HERE

This was one in a series of webinars entitled ‘Road to Recovery’. The next one is on Weds 12th August and will explore ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’, again including speakers from Leeds.

The Centre for Ageing Better is working hard to highlight the issues facing older people in the recovery phase after Covid-19 – see their website for more details.

‘A Moment of Revelation’ by a Diocesan priest

The other day I was advised that I needed a routine chest x-ray (not COVID-19 related). The nearest available hospital was in the centre of Leeds.  Driving myself into the business of the city from the outskirts was a bit of a novelty.

Until the March lockdown, I had enjoyed an active priestly life which involved ministry to an enclosed community of religious sisters, prison chaplaincy and some committee work but not parish involvement.  I live, therefore, in an independent flat. I am 74 years old and preparing for retirement in August. I am the owner of 2 arterial stents, 3 by-pass arteries and more recently a cardiac pacemaker.

As a vulnerable older person I was instructed to self-isolate in my home. It has made obvious sense for me to keep the rules. Other than daily exercise and the odd minor infraction, I have stayed at home, isolated from the general commerce of daily life. Even my shopping has been done by two very kind friends.

Thus a trip into Leeds was a novelty which at first felt quite daunting. However I soon got into the swing of it. Everything went well and it was the most straightforward outpatient appointment, I think I have ever had. It felt good to become again part of daily life with nurses, doctors and patients all moving about their business as if they were nothing too unusual happening in the world.

As I drove back I tuned in to radio 5L, as I have so often done in times past. And then suddenly, as if the clock had been turned back, I experienced a strange and powerful feeling of being young and energetic again. It quite startled me to realise that three months of isolation and constant news bulletins of sickness and death had imperceptibly given me a sense of having aged.

That revelatory experience has caused me to ponder and wonder what might be the connection between isolation and a sense of ageing.

One of the things I have struggled with during enforced separation from the world, is a sense of purpose. What is the meaning of life if one is all locked up and nowhere to go! What should I do with the day. Like everyone, in the beginning I busied myself with emptying an overflowing in-tray and answering overdue correspondence. But gradually when most of those loose ends were dealt with the question surfaced  – “what is it all about Alfie?” this life locked in doors.

Then the words of Jesus to St. Peter after the resurrection began to resonate.     “But when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will   put a belt around you and take you where you would rather not go. “

Though I am blessed with my faculties, both physical and mental, I seem somehow, during isolation, to have lost some independence. Now I must wait for the Government to tell me what is safe and what is not safe, what I can and what I mustn’t do. The belt feels to have been tied around me.

Seeing, each morning, the younger residents of the complex of flats where I live, setting off to gainful employment, seeing the key workers organising things in the supermarket car park opposite and watching the delivery men and the refuse collectors keeping the wheels of life turning, made me feel as though I do not quite belong to the world.  It has created a sense of separation with a resulting sense of unimportance!

It would appear that these three personal experiences of self-isolation have unwittingly left me feeling older.  It makes me wonder will I retire well, – a very pertinent question since my retirement may very well proceed my liberation from lockdown.

What I am very conscious of is that my admiration for the many housebound people older or younger, who manage to stay young at heart, has grown. It is to them I must turn for wisdom and guidance so that lockdown doesn’t rob me, prematurely of a youthful outlook.

‘The Blessing U.K.’ plus ‘The Blessing – KIDS’

Whether you have seen it already or not, this moving song collaboration is bound to lift your spirits – an amazing coming together of over 65 churches and movements across the U.K. which has had over 3 million views on Youtube.

This is the message they attached: ‘At this unique and challenging time in the United Kingdom over 65 churches and movements, representing hundreds of others, have come together online to sing a blessing over our land. Standing together as one, our desire is that this song will fill you with hope and encourage you. But the church is not simply singing a blessing, each day we’re looking to practically be a blessing…’

And if that wasn’t enough, get the tissues ready before you watch this kids version

a wonderful rendition by children and young people from the UK, USA, NZ, AUS, SA and many other nations

The Lord bless you
And keep you 
Make His face shine upon you 
And be gracious to you 
The Lord turn His 
Face toward you 
And give you peace 
As we receive, we agree, amen 
Chorus:  Amen, amen, amen 
May His favour be upon you 
And a thousand generations 
And your family and your children 
And their children, and their children 
May His presence go before you 
And behind you, and beside you 
All around you, and within you 
He is with you 
He is with you
In the morning, in the evening 
In your coming, and your going 
In your weeping 
And rejoicing 
He is for you 
He is for you

Original Song “The Blessing” by Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Elevation Worship. Written by Chris Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Steven Furtick Audio produced by Trevor Michael Video edited by Level Creative

Is there a better way to die?

This interesting article from the Guardian explores the subject of drawing up end-of-life wishes and how the virus may be changing our attitude to death.

Peter Hallgarten, who survived a serious case of coronavirus. He and his wife decided 10 years ago to put together their end-of-life wishes (living wills), including a DNR (do not resuscitate order).

The article sates: ‘…Suddenly, death is all around … Everyone knows someone who has been touched. As a result, people are not only having intimations of their own mortality; more of them are thinking about how they want to die; of what they want to avoid in the way of intervention and what they would hope for, too, given the choice. Interest in advance directives, the documents often referred to as living wills, has grown dramatically during the pandemic….’

For more information on end-of-life wishes and related issues, see the websites below:

Find out about ReSPECT, a process which creates a personalised recommendation for your clinical care in emergency situations
A Catholic website with many useful articles about the end of life.

New Grief and Loss Service

A new support and advice service is being launched to help people across West Yorkshire and Harrogate through grief and loss.

‘Practical and emotional support and advice is available from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week via our freephone number 0808 1963833, or online chat facilityOur team can offer support and help connect you with organisations local to you, who can offer additional help where needed’.

The free service, commissioned by West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, will be delivered by West Yorkshire and Harrogate Independent Hospices ConsortiumBradford Counselling Collaborative and Leeds Mind.

Do contact the service if you:

  • are suffering any form of grief and loss
  • are worried about losing someone, whether this relates to a family member, friend or member of their community
  • have been unable to see a loved one in their illness or final days
  • are feeling impacted by the volume of deaths across the country or other aspects of the virus
  • suffering loss not directly linked to the virus

Ring for free on 0808 1963833

Contact through the online chat facility

Update on re-opening of churches

On 23rd June the Prime Minister stated that places of worship are now able to resume collective acts of worship from 4 July. However, this means putting in place many measures to keep people safe and not all churches will be able to hold Mass at the moment.

Click HERE for a letter from the Archbishops in England which states ‘We welcome this news with great joy’, but cautions ‘we tread carefully along the path that lies ahead’.

It goes on to explain:

‘It is important to reaffirm that, at present, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended’. 

‘Please be aware that there will be a limit on the number of people who can attend Mass in our churches. This will determined locally in accordance with social distancing requirements. We therefore need to reflect carefully on how and when we might be able to attend Mass. We cannot return immediately to our customary practices. This next step is not, in any sense, a moment when we are going ‘back to normal’. We ask every Catholic to think carefully about how and when they will return to Mass’.

For up to date guidance from the Diocese, please click HERE.

Bishop Marcus Stock states:

‘Although there is a deep desire to resume the sacramental life of the Church, many parishes will need some time to assimilate the guidance and to put the necessary framework of procedures in place before they can open.’

More detailed information about when and how our churches may re-open for public worship – and, crucially, how to book, as numbers are still strictly limited – will be available from individual parishes and/or published on parish websites‘ – please see your own parish for details.


In his April pastoral letter, Bishop Marcus writes: ‘Liturgy means a “common work of the Catholic Church… the participation of the People of God in the ‘work of God’. The liturgy is “the source and summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed…the font from which all her power flows.”’ We can all bring to this conciliar description, our own memories of mass-going. At my age, ripened by mass going and ‘serving on the altar’, I come from memories of using a Knox missal in the 1950s (the smell of its pages lingers yet!), to mass with an iPad. No smell left!

I think my understanding of the richness of the ‘liturgy’ as the ‘common work of the Church’ has been immeasurably enriched lately by a realisation of two other parallel more personal ‘works’ which link us to the Church’s liturgy so that its  full power to transform us may be unleashed.

What are these two experiences?  In ‘Novo Millennio Ineunte’, (Entering the New Millennium) Pope St John Paul described worship as ‘contemplating the face of Christ’ A beautiful image. As an impressionable youth, I now see that I confined the ‘face of Christ’ to His ‘real presence’ in the liturgy of the Eucharist. I ignored the Catechism answer to the question: ‘Where is God?: ‘God is everywhere’. A slick answer which left the conundrum intact, my own experience disengaged.    

The Holy Spirit now tells me that the ‘face of Christ’ can be found in two intertwined places: in the depths of my own heart, in the hearts of all others and in the spaces between us. Secondly, I can recognise the face of the ‘universal Christ’ in the whole of creation.

I laughed and played as a boy with pals and fell in love with woods, dales, rivers and the life of birds and flowers. But I never made the link from these to that holiness I had been taught was to be found only in ‘going to church’. Perhaps this had to come later. But our human history, story, myth, poetry and song have been records created by those ‘seers’ and mystics who discovered the face of God ‘everywhere’!

The parables of Jesus jump out from a close natural insertion into and empathy with a divine-soaked interplay between the natural and human, and hence divine, world. The fig, the mustard tree, the vine, sheep, sowing seed, sweeping the house, stewardship, work – all both reveal and hide the Kingdom of God. We note ‘treasure’ but miss noting where the treasure is hidden – in a field!  Fields can both hide yet reveal God!  The bread and wine of the Last Supper meal presume a felt sense of the divinity in all things and all things human – deliverance, freedom, human dignity – a sacramentality prior to but meant to mould our appreciation of the seven.   A discovery of the Universal Christ hidden (pretty well!) in pals and in the whole of nature can lie dormant, waiting for the Holy Spirit to judge when we are ready to ‘get it’!  Celebrating these experiences of the ‘real presences’ of the Universal Christ has brought a new perspective and framework to the liturgy and the Eucharist. Older age gifted and blessed with the conviction that everything is holy, nothing is profane unless misused.

Setting our experience of the liturgical sacramental life, in its place in the context of our own sacramentality and ‘sacredness’ and the sacramentality of all created matter, brings a rich experiential new dimension  to the conciliar description of the liturgy as ‘the source and summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed… the font from which all her power flows‘. As members of the Church we strive to see the Mass as such.

As individuals, we struggle to bathe in the ever-flowing font or fountain of love which is the Trinity present in and as our very being and in and as all things,  Finding, acknowledging and ‘contemplating the face of Christ’ deep in our own hearts and in every morsel of the creation from galaxy to atom, brings such a transformation to participation in the Church’s liturgy, that it is thereby freed and more able in turn to work its transforming power in us.

We give thanks for the ‘God with us’, the lesson of the Incarnation. In the Holy Spirit, we can see that having joined together into and becoming what we eat – the Body of Christ – we are thereby transformed into being ‘missionary disciples’. The ‘work’ of the liturgy urges us to ‘work’ for justice, peace and care for our common home. Liturgy and our mass-going is not simply an end in itself but also the means for our own on-going transformation for a distinct Gospel purpose: to enable us to recognise the real presence, the face of Christ in all, especially in the faces of the poor and in everything. The liturgy brings us back full circle in thanksgiving to Jesus, ‘really present’ in the bread and the wine, prepared by an appreciation of Christ ‘through whom all things were made’ (John: 1: 3) ‘really present’ in the whole of creation.  

Any lessons for a time of lockdown?  We join on-line Eucharists from the Pope in the Vatican, to those in our own Cathedral and parish churches. These celebrations can be framed and supported by the immediacy of meeting and giving thanks for the permanent presence of Christ in our hearts, in the hearts of all and in all our now heightened appreciation of the first book of creation – nature and our place in it. This we can celebrate round our tables, at home, in our meals, in our walks of contemplative silence. 

How can we learn to recognise the ‘face of Christ’ in our own hearts? That is the topic for another time – a contemplative one.

David Jackson. (With thanks and acknowledgement to insights provided by the writings of Julian of Norwich, Teilhard de Chardin, Richard Rohr, Ruth Burrows and many others)

About David

After 9 years as a priest teaching at Ushaw, David left to embrace the equally rewarding ministry of marriage, now to Teresa for some 46 years, blessed by three children and symmetrically 6 grandchildren. He retired in 2011 from being the Diocesan Interfaith Advisor after a career as a RE teacher and inspector for Bradford LEA. He tries now to tie activities round Justice and Peace with eco-care for our common home, all linked to the practice and study of contemplative prayer.  He is a member of Pax Christi and ACTA. He supports Teresa in her voluntary work in Bradford with Asylum Seekers, contact with whom reveals Jesus of the Gospels.  He admires the work of the Columbans, the songs of St Leonard Cohen and all the flights and lives of birds.

David says of himself: ‘I enjoy gardening, reading, walking in the woods, drinking a little too much red wine and watching rubbishy box sets’.  

We are very grateful to David for this insightful piece on Liturgy in these Virus Times.