One local church on the outskirts of London has found a winning formula in providing a safe and welcoming place for older people to come along and meet up with other local residents.
Taking her experience of helping run a parent and toddler group Pippa, a local mum, turned her attention to serving older people in the local community. An outreach was set up to serve the elderly in their community and to help reduce the isolation and loneliness faced by many. Aptly named Connections, it aims to connect people to God and with each other.
Before their Tuesday meetings, a team of volunteers comes in to set up the church cafe style and to prepare for the over 100 guests that they have each week.
Guests are offered coffee and homemade cakes, with flowers on the tables, which can include optional craft activities, mini hand massages, gentle exercises, jigsaws, shared hobbies and special interest tables put together by local guests, which allows guests to chat whilst they are doing something.
Pippa Cramer, Pastoral Care and Seniors Co-ordinator at HTC says “It has been a privilege to see how Connections has grown – for many, who are lonely and isolated, it’s the highlight of their week, and it’s so wonderful to see Connections as a bridge into church – many of the new faces we have at church come from Connections.”
Connections offers a safe place to connect with others and build friendships in a safe environment. They also welcome carers, who can bring along the person that they are caring for, allowing them both the opportunity to get out of the house once a week.
For their regulars, who are often living with ill health, dementia or bereavement, the opportunity to connect once a week, to sit, listen and talk, is all they need.
Pippa emphasizes that they want their guests to “relax and feel at ease” and believes that the love and care shown by the team is infectious. “It’s the care and love received that impacts people”. It’s not just the guests who benefit, the volunteers who take part also love being part of the team.
The church aims to help guests to experience the love of God through the friendships they build at Connections. During the morning, there’s a light touch ‘’thought for the day’ shared by one of the leaders and there always volunteers for guests to talk to and pray with.
Pippa says that she believes it’s their “warm welcome, ability to listen, generosity and prayer” , and the caring team of volunteers, that have made Connections such a success.
The culture of love in the Connections community has spread outside of a Tuesday morning, with guests and volunteers phoning each other for a chat, guests hosting coffee mornings and helping each other with shopping.
One of the surprising things about the project, is that it sees a large number of men attending. Pippa says that she believes that it helps that some of the team are men who are particularly good at getting alongside the older gentlemen, but also many of the activities aim to appeal to men, particularly the special interest tables.
The project has seen such success that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has expressed a desire to see the Connections model of reaching the elderly replicated across other churches.
It’s inspiring to see a church meeting real needs of older people in their community, with genuine love and compassion. We hope to see many more Connections projects springing up across the country!
To find out more about Connections, contact Pippa Cramer, Pastoral Care & Senior’s Co-ordinator at Holy Trinity Claygate, at email@example.com