Some prayers and ideas shared at our Discussion Event on 4th November

About 20 of us met on Zoom on a cold evening with fireworks going off in the background! We had a good time together sharing issues and ideas around starting up and continuing activities and support for older people in our parishes at this strange time of transition.

Sister Bernadette from the Sisters of Mercy led us first in LAMENT remembering the difficult times we have come through and still have to navigate:

“As we gather this evening, we are conscious that we have lived and are living through a pandemic. This is something many of us may have never imagined.”

“The flow of life has changed, our way of life has been affected, and the crisis seems unending. Life has been difficult in so many ways and each person here tonight will be aware of that in some way, as an individual, a family, a colleague in a workplace or as a member of a Parish.”

“Our one constant through this journey of the pandemic has been our God, our companion, our comforter, our hope, our strength, our guide. The God who at times was close or who may have seemed far away.”

After a Lockdown poem, we moved on to expressing HOPE and STRENGTH as we move forward, with the words of Isaiah and prayers of commitment and faith:

We are not people of fear:
We are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety:
We are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.
We are not people of greed:
We are people of generosity.
We are your people God, giving and loving,
Wherever we are,
Whatever it costs,
For as long as it takes
Wherever you call us.

We then broke into 3 DISCUSSION GROUPS on the following themes:

  1. Restarting or starting groups and activities
  2. Online or ‘in person’ or both?
  3. Supporting the vulnerable and reconnecting with the disconnected


With help from Hillary Wadsworth from Time to Shine, some of the themes discussed here were:


Rachel Beedle from Catholic Care who works with their older people’s groups facilitated this group – their main points were:


Mo Crossley from Huddersfield facilitated this group, enabling input from SVP and others, resulting in a good discussion with the following main points:

Feedback showed that attendees enjoyed both the reflections/prayers and the discussions, and we hope it was helpful to all to come together and share ideas and concerns.

We are now starting to plan for some events/content in the Spring on the theme of ‘Finding our Calling in Later Life’ – watch this space (as they say!).

A Time of Transition, by Pippa Bonner

It seems as though we are in an in-between place…

It seems as though we are in an in- between place between Lockdown and some further loosening of the Covid restrictions. Vaccination programmes are progressing. The Covid figures in the UK are steadily lower. It is likely more restrictions will be lifted on May 17th, and June 21, which may or may not make your life less restrictive. We may be able to come out of our houses and see people and places we haven’t seen for a long time. For some it will be a release. For others it might seem quite an anxious time. Walking out of the door, seeing other people – whether friends or strangers, sharing a pavement or shop or cafe space may seem a little daunting if we have been confined to home, garden or local spaces.

The period between Easter and Pentecost seems an interim, in-between period for us and the followers of Jesus in the Scriptures

Living in 2021, we read the New Testament unfolding, knowing that although Jesus died, he was then resurrected and ascended to heaven. Then the Holy Spirit, the great Enabler, Inspirer and Courage-Maker came at Pentecost. The Apostles (or Disciples, in Fr Nicholas King’s translation notes, which includes a greater number of unnamed women and men who had followed Jesus), were inspired and emboldened to speak out, some to work miracles, preach, travel and build up small Christian communities, despite Roman occupation and fear of the Jewish authorities and of diseases like leprosy, one of the plagues of the time.

During the in- between period before the Ascension and Pentecost, there were a number of sightings of Jesus, but Jesus’ appearance had somehow changed so he was not usually immediately recognised. Once recognised, people could see he bore the signs of the cross and ate fish – so was not a ghost.

He could still teach and encourage them. Initially, Mary Magdalene had literally tried to hold onto him. He had discouraged that as he was no longer physically and constantly going to be in their lives: living and working with them, in the same way as before… They were going to have to continue the work and proclaim the Good News without his human presence alongside them. They huddled together inside an Upper Room before Pentecost as they were uncertain and afraid about what would happen next.

Jesus’ relationship with his Disciples changed to a deeper, spiritual one, at Pentecost and they began to face the outside world with confidence, hope and less anxiety.

I sometimes wonder how often they regretted not really understanding so many things he was trying to tell them about God before the Crucifixion, about the Eucharist, the meaning of his parables and so many other things. How frequently did Christ say he would “die” and about his plans for them and others and they didn’t understand him? This in- between time was a time when they could recognise him, regret what they hadn’t understood, be forgiven, reflect, regroup and recover before Pentecost.

Like the Disciples in this in- between time between Easter and, Pentecost and for us the hoped for further easing of Covid restrictions in May and June, some of us may be traumatised by recent events, bereaved, isolated and anxious about the future. We may also be relieved and hopeful for the further unlocking of Covid restrictions.

We may each feel all kinds of emotions which can vary depending on our experience, outlook and what has happened to us, our families and friends.

Like Mary Magdalene’s initial reaction, we may want to hold on to life as before. We may need to touch the reality of the new situation like Thomas who needed to experience seeing Jesus and touch the new reality for himself. Or, like Peter be given the chance to make amends and seek forgiveness for denying Jesus three times. He was now allowed to say he loved Jesus three times. We may have been left with betrayals, regrets, unkind words and deeds and other unfinished business that we have been unable to resolve because of Covid restrictions. We too are given another chance!

We too are given Pentecost strength and inspiration to go out and build up our and other people’s lives in whatever way we can.

We all have gifts that we can share by phone or card even if we remain restricted by our circumstances….

Transition times can be lonely, anxious and periods of struggle and self -reflection. They can also be powerful places to prepare for new possibilities, spiritual gifts and joy.

Some parts of our past life may have changed because of Covid, and we may be grieving for what we have lost and suffered. Other parts of the world are suffering deeply now. We all try to believe that this new reality as we move forward, through, and hopefully, come safely out of the Covid restrictions, may become a time of settling down, recovery and some hope for us all.

Pippa Bonner, May 2021.

‘Remembering with Hope’ – join our online service Tues 23rd March at 7pm

An online service to remember our loved ones.

On the anniversary of the first lockdown, join with us to commemorate loved ones that have died during this past year and remember them with Hope.

We feel it is important to mark the date of the start of the first lockdown with a reflective service giving space to remember those we know who have passed away over the last year (whatever the reason).

So a team of us at the Elizabeth Prout Bereavement Care (The Briery) and Growing Old Grace-fully have joined together to hold this online service , which will include:

  • Prayers
  • Readings of Scripture
  • Music
  • Time in small groups to share briefly about loved ones, celebrating their life
  • An Act of Remembering together – photos to be put on a tree at The Briery, names to be read out, and we light a candle together.

If you would like to, you will be able to send the name and/or a photo of your loved one to be printed and put on the Tree of Remembrance in the chapel at The Briery where they will be kept displayed and prayed for until Easter. We would also like to display the names on the screen during the service.

Instructions about this will be sent by email after you REGISTER for the event.

Let’s join together to mark this day with remembrance and hope.

“Under the shadow of your wings I shall find hope” (Psalm 57): A Journey in Lent?

Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

In 2020 we went into Lockdown during Lent. Who would have thought that we are approaching another Lent starting on 17th February in 2021 and we are in Lockdown 3? This time, speaking for myself – and I suspect others too – there is weariness and anxiety and a greater understanding that this “new normal” is going to take longer than we thought last Lent. 

However, we now have vaccines which are being given as quickly as systems allow. We each also know from experience what has supported us this far. Perhaps our faith in God? Our faith in other people? Family and friends? TV? The Internet? Perhaps we are trying to concentrate more on the present, rather than thinking about the past and worrying or wishing for the future. And particularly if we live alone we may have developed routines, diversions and self knowledge and self- care to know what has, and has not, got us through this far? 

For most of us it is a journey of ups and downs, and that is a natural response to stressful events, loss and anxiety. We are all much clearer about what we have “lossed”: the death of family and friends, health, jobs and money, stability, being in close contact with others, going to our churches to meet our church community face to face, spontaneously planning outings, holidays, meals, theatre trips or watching ordinary life out of the window.

Image origin unknown

So, what about Lent, where we spend time thinking about Jesus and “journeying” with Him towards Jerusalem to his Death and Resurrection?

Can we cope with it this year? Or do we think our observation of it matters more than ever? We are encouraged to believe in Jesus, who, as God, is suffering with us, in the midst of us rather than a distant God. Though it may not feel like it.

Sometimes I am thinking how I am perhaps in a kind of desert with Jesus, or in a storm or sinking in the sea, or perhaps standing on a mountain and sometimes I stand on solid ground with a sense of purpose. It may vary.

We are all in a strange space between life as we knew it before March 2020 and life after a global pandemic. What are we thinking about how to spend Lent? Some of us may feel we are suffering enough already, or too tired or too “prayed out” or feel abandoned, so considering extra in Lent may be too difficult to consider.

I have been looking at two very different books which I plan to use:

  • The Book of Psalms (translated by Jesuit scriptural theologian Nicholas King) ,
  • ” The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by author and illustrator Charlie Mackesy

I aim to reflect on both of them this Lent.

I have found a journey of crisis, uncertainty, fear, reflection, support, joy, calm and hope in both these books. In some ways they are complementary, despite the several thousand years and different cultures that separate them.

Charlie Mackesy’s book has a message that is not overtly religious but I believe it is profound, spiritual and relational. It is a book is for all age groups and it is a journey about love, friendship, kindness, wisdom and hope, and I find it very inspiring.

The Psalms express fear, anger, distress, fatigue, remorse, forgiveness, hope, thanksgiving and praise. Nicholas King helpfully says that “when the psalmist talks of “my enemies”, for example, we are no longer in touch with the original reference, and sometimes it is easier to pray such verses as a reference to those inner thoughts that upset us or alienate us.” I found this explanation useful, enriching and not physically war-based. I have now been reading the concept of enemies and struggles in the context of the global pandemic and the thoughts and feelings I have about it. I offer extracts from some of the Psalms.

Extracts from Psalm 42:
"Just as the deer longs for springs of water, 
so my soul longs for you....
Why are you so very sad, my soul?
Why are you troubling me?....
Deep calls upon deep, at the sound of your waterfalls,
all your billows and your waves have gone over me....
Why are you so very sad, my soul?
And why are you troubling me?
Hope in God, for I shall sing God's praises.
the one who saves me, my God."

Psalm 42 talks about enemy oppression and being asked by enemies where is our God? I am thinking that the enemy in this Psalm might include the fear, doubt and loss that Covid 19 has on our lives. Ultimately out of longing and sadness comes eternal safety and hope.

From Psalm 69:
" Save me, O God, for the waters have reached my soul.
I am stuck fast in deep mud, and there is nowhere to stand;
I have gone into the depths of the sea, 
and a storm has swamped me;
I am exhausted from crying out; my throat is sore;
my eyes are worn out from [looking] expectantly for God....”

These words remind me of media interviews from exhausted doctors and other health care workers. And I sometimes feel swamped and exhausted by all the news and statistics about Covid 19.

Then in Psalm 23 God is a loving shepherd:

“For even though I should walk
in the midst of the shadow of death,
I shall not fear evil,
for you are with me;
your stick and your rod,
these have comforted me.”

N. King suggests the the stick may be for support and the rod to ward off “attackers”, or in my view those intrusive negative thoughts.

In Psalm 46 “ a psalm about hidden things” is how King translates the title:

“God is our refuge and strength, 
a help in the troubles that find us out.
Therefore we shall not fear 
when the earth is stirred 
and the mountains are shifted 
in the heart of the seas”....
“The Lord of hosts is with us,
the God of Jacob is our helper.”

Then we are given wings to fly away and rest in Psalm 55, and shelter in Psalm 63.

From Psalm 55
“My heart was disturbed inside me,
and the fear of death fell upon me.
Fear and trembling came upon me,
and darkness covered me.
And I said, “Who will give me 
wings like a dove,
that I may fly away and be at rest?
Look, I have travelled far in my flight
and made my lodging in the desert.”

From Psalm 63:
“I shall dwell in your tent for ever. I shall be sheltered 
under the shelter of your wings.”

It seems to me that this Lent the Psalms may help us to find words for our fear, sadness and hidden thoughts in a pandemic and also the hope and rest that many of us believe will come through God. Some of us may place ourselves in the imagery of the desert and the storms but also the protection of the tent or under the shelter of wings.

And what of the words and illustrations in Charlie Mackesy’s book “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”? These characters meet and learn about themselves through each other and philosophise profoundly on behalf of us all as they journey together: (There are no page numbers.)

 “Everyone is a bit scared said the horse,
but we are less scared together.
Tears fall for a reason
and they are your strength not weakness.”

This might be helpful for reflection on our own fear and expression of emotion, and as we read of the tears and exhaustion in Psalms, including Psalm 69.

 “Isn’t it odd. We can only see our outsides,
but nearly everything happens on the inside.”
(said by the Boy.)

The Psalms give vent to internal emotions, that are at times expressed openly and at other times are on the inside, or under the cover of darkness, or may be the “enemies” mentioned so often in these Psalms. As Nicholas King said previously the warring enemies of the Psalms may be the conflicting turbulent thoughts we have at times. For healthy mental wellbeing we are often encouraged to reflect on our inner thoughts and try to work through them. We may need to express them in some way.
Sometimes we need to ask for support.

“ Asking for help isn’t giving up”, said the Horse.
“It’s refusing to give up.”

And sometimes we need to focus on our blessings and look at what we value:

“When the big things feel out of control…focus on what you love right under your nose.” “This storm will pass,” said the Horse.

And if we feel tired with contemplating the journey through Lent we each discern what we will do, remembering that Resurrection and hope follow Lent and the Crucifixion. The Fox doesn’t say much but joins the journey, helps the others and not talking is accepted too… Perhaps this year we allow ourselves some leeway and “time out” when we need it.:

“ Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses”
said the Mole.”.

And if we need reminding how far we have travelled the Covid 19 journey as we enter Lent:

“ We have such a long way to go”, sighed the Boy. “Yes, but look how far we’ve come” said the Horse.”

  1. King,N. (2008)The Psalms (Kevin Mayhew Suffolk.)
  2. Mackesy, C (2019) The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse.(Ebury/Penguin UK).

By Pippa Bonner, January 2021

‘Healer of all Hurts, how long?’ – A Lament by Jon Swales

Father God,
Healer of All Hurts.

We come to you in our hour of need saying.

How Long? O Lord.
How Long?

We find our ourselves caught up in the storm of Covid.
We feel stranded and alone,
Cut off from those we love.

How Long? O Lord.
How Long.

We face shipwreck and catastrophe,
Battered and bruised by the storm of this pandemic.

Our nation is in peril,
Our NHS is stretched,
Our Souls feel anxious and afraid.

How Long? O Lord.
How Long?

Healer of all hurts,
We come to you in our hour of need pleading.

That you would still the wind and waves,

And act,
And move,
And comfort,
And heal,
And embrace us in your healing hands.

Covenant God,
Father of Lights,
We bring before your tender love.

Those who are sick,
Lord have mercy, Christ Have mercy.

Front Line workers for protection and resilience,
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

For energy and patience for those homeschooling,
Lord have mercy, Christ Have mercy.

For the vulnerable and those shielding,
Lord have mercy, Christ Have mercy.

For ourselves in our boredom, frustration and anxiety.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

Father God,
Healer of All Hurts.
We come to you in our hour of need praising you,
That you do not leave us,
or forsake us.
You have shown your love to us in Jesus.

Covenant God,
Father of Lights,
We come to you in our hour of need praising you,
That there is not a hurt you will not heal.
Nor a tear you will not wipe away.
You have shown your love to us in Jesus.

We praise you that in Jesus is a balm to soothe our souls.
We praise you that in Jesus there is always hope.
We praise that in Jesus all will be well.

Until that day,
We Weep and Pray.

How Long? O Lord,
How Long?

Written by Rev Jon Swales, January 2021

Jon is Lighthouse Mission Priest (C of E) at Lighthouse West Yorkshire, which is is a fresh expression of church and registered Leeds-based charity which reaches out to those who are battered and bruised by the storms of life.

Find out more on their website.

Where are we now? A Collective Trauma Response model throws light on our journey

Where are we now?

What will happen in the next few months? What will Christmas look like this year? Why am I feeling like I do just now?

Whilst we probably do our best to soldier on and we are thankful for many small mercies, maybe there are times that the clouds of questions fill our view and swirl around our brains, darkening our paths and saddening our hearts.

I recently came across a very helpful website called ‘Tragedy and Congregations’ which has a very timely and pressing purpose, namely:

‘ resource churches to respond in a healthy way to the impact of tragedies, local and global, through training both ministers in training, and serving clergy, in good practice, careful reflection, and personal resilience.’

I found all of their material extremely helpful, but a couple of blog pieces in particular stood out as making more sense of our journey through this global trauma.

Writing in June, Revd Hilary Ison reflects on the situation as follows:

‘Many are now tired, emotional, increasingly frustrated with the loss of liberties, with the denial of the usual comforts of contact with families and friends, of going out and just being normal.’

Losses are mounting up and realities are hitting home. Government and church leaders are not able to rescue us all and disillusion sets in, together with questioning as to whether those in charge have really done their best for us. Some just want to get back to normal and others are fearful ……’

Here she is linking our current situation to the ‘disillusionment phase’ outlined in a useful model of ‘Collective Trauma Response’ shown below:

See the Institute for Collective Trauma and Growth

It is not difficult to see how the initial stages of this model can throw light on events and responses earlier this year, as Hilary writes:

‘In the heroic phase after the initial impact of the shock event, people discharge their stress hormones that have been activated by the shock through wanting to do something, either by helping victims, or by volunteering and donating things. People are energised and it generally brings out the best in them – kindness, caring, generosity and selflessness.’

‘In response to the initial phase of the pandemic, we have certainly seen heroic and inspiring responses; amazing self-giving in those who have volunteered to help neighbours and communities, healthcare and frontline workers, clergy and congregations serving those who are in need and ministers learning to record and live stream services and finding many creative ways to engage with congregations and local communities.’

But operating at this level of activism is exhausting and not sustainable in the longer term. So when energy levels become depleted and the reality and awfulness of the situation sinks in, disillusion sets in. No amount of heroics can change what has happened.’

‘In the disillusionment phase, people are tired, weepy, irritable, unable to concentrate, angry at what has happened and what may or may not have happened in response to the situation, especially against those ‘in charge’. There may be grief at injury and what or who has been lost, a questioning of faith and God…..Some will be looking for a rescuer, and others will just be wanting to get back to normal as soon as possible.’

The difficult thing is that this stage cannot be short-circuited – the only way is through. It is messy and difficult, and requires a real holding of nerve and extra support for those in leadership.’

As Hilary points out, (and as we are even more keenly aware at this time of many local lockdowns in the north of England), our situation is not exactly like most one-off traumatic events like fires, floods, murder, suicides, terrorist attacks, earth quakes etc. She notes:

‘So what of this in the Covid 19 situation? In a sense it’s the trauma that keeps giving. Or like an earthquake with aftershocks. We do not know yet what may happen further down the line. The problem is that there are no maps available to us to help us navigate through this Covid 19 pandemic crisis as it is an unprecedented situation in the experience of this generation’.

To me personally, it feels like we had just tentatively placed one foot on the first rung of the ladder of the third phase of (partial) ‘rebuilding and restoration’ only to see the ladder teeter and fall sideways, leaving us looking down at the dark clouds of disillusionment below and wishing we didn’t have to go there again.

Hilary continues:

‘And it is at this point, when energy levels are depleted, that we as communities and churches are being asked to be creative all over again in finding ways to develop a ‘new normal’, which may only be temporary, to cope with requirements of social distancing, and won’t feel ‘normal’ at all. Perhaps this could be a new element on the chart – a transitional phase in which we try to function as best we can with the uncertainty of not knowing if we will be on a gradual trajectory out of this crisis or find ourselves back in lockdown again.’

The ‘rebuilding and restoration phase’ (see chart above) is yet to come and could be a long way off with many valleys and false summits to traverse.

In a further blog piece in August, Revd Dr. Carla A. Grosch-Miller encourages us to remember our resilient and adaptive abilities as human beings:

‘Through all the phases after and during a collective trauma, we are surviving and adapting. Human beings are constantly creating new neural pathways in the brain as we meet challenges and obstacles and learn new ways of doing things. We are born learners and we create those new pathways until we die. By now many of us have begun to master the art of holding two opposite things in our head: we will begin in person worship on _____ (fill in the blank) and maybe we won’t (if the infection rate soars). We are learning to live with unpredictability. It remains hard work for our brains and is exhausting but we are doing it.’

‘It is no surprise that the characteristics of the disillusionment phase are exhaustion, low energy, tension and conflict, and utter unpredictability and variability of emotions. There is a lot going on!

But it is worth hanging in there so that the important, soil-turning work that happens in this phase can be done and done well.

We listen prayerfully and discerningly to our people, encouraging honesty about how this really feels, and holding both sadness for the losses, and excitement for new possibilities in tender hands. We also take good care of ourselves. This work is costly; we must steward our energies as we will be in this for the long haul and we want to lead well.’

Carla concludes her piece with these words:

‘Are we there yet? Hardly. But we are definitely on our way.

And we also have what we need: a faithful God who refuses to let go of us and who walks with us through the valley and into the sunlight of a new day.’

Read the full blog pieces using the links below:

You can also find many other helpful articles, resources and reflections on the Tragedy and Congregations website.

Rhoda Wu, Development Officer at Growing Old Gracefully

Quoted pieces used with permission from Christopher Southgate of the Tragedy and Congregations Project Team.

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.


Places still available on last 2 events – ‘A Matter of Life and Death’-

dead flower with seeds in a hand

Our first 2 events went very well, with nearly 60 people at the excellent Webinar with Lynn Bassett , and over 20 at the first Discussion session, which gave rise to rich sharing in our break out groups.

This series is aimed at 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.