Church Champion Story: Enfield Town Community Church

ETCC Monday Meet Easter Sarah Finnie

Author: Sarah Finnie

Faith in Later Life Church Champion Sarah, leads a Seniors group at Enfield Town Community Church. Here she tells us more about the group which has recently welcomed new members from a local care home.

I’m responsible for a group of up to 100 seniors who meet weekly at our church, Enfield Town Community Church. About half of them do not know the Lord Jesus personally yet. Recently we’ve been joined by up to 24 residents from a local care home, many of whom have significant dementia.

After a soup and sweet lunch, we have a 10 minute Bible talk by one of our pastors and then some sort of activity such as craft, a quiz or an outside speaker.

The Bible is central to all we do in our church and the Bible talk is the focal point of each afternoon. We are currently retelling some of the Lord Jesus’ parables and thinking how they apply to us.

Those with dementia mostly appeared to doze through these talks, a few could be quite vocal. As a team, we wondered how we could help them hear what God had to say.

I’m very grateful for all the training and support I’ve had from Faith in Later Life. Last year we had a talk by Terry Puttick from London City Mission about the Bible in evangelism with older people. One thing he said was, “the body ages and may fail us, the mind ages and may fail us but the soul doesn’t age. Our job is to keep sharing the gospel so God’s Word can find its way in.”

The talk was well before the care home residents joined us but I remembered it and wondered what the best way was for us to ensure God’s word was heard by everyone.

Then last month, Faith in Later Life’s Chair of Trustees, Stephen Hammersley, and Friederike Hamilton from Pilgrims’ Friend Society came to our church for a training morning called ‘Caring for those with dementia’. What a helpful time that was! So very appropriate to what we were doing, with lots of practical advice.

One thing that was talked about was the role of familiar music in helping those with dementia to then engage with the spoken word. We watched a video about this that illustrated it so clearly.

Until then, our weekly pattern had been eat – pray – Bible talk. We decided to try singing an “old” hymn immediately before the Bible talk. I printed the words and YouTube provided the music.

The first week we sang ‘Jesus Christ is risen today’. An unusual choice in the middle of February but it fitted in well with the subject of the Bible talk that week. I was very keen this should happen to avoid it just becoming a sing song.

I was totally amazed by the response! From my vantage spot on the platform I could see those I thought were dozing sit up and join in. They didn’t need the written words. Above the sound of singing, there didn’t appear to be others calling out either.

Our Sunday services usually consist of mostly newer hymns and an unexpected response from many church members was how good and helpful it was to sing a hymn they knew from years ago and that it helped them to then focus on what the Bible had to say rather than keep thinking about the soup, the weather or whatever conversation they’d been enjoying at their table.

Since then we’ve had a hymn each week, with the same response each time. I hear that Fi Costa will be speaking at the Church Champions Zoom training session about Music and Dementia on 9 May and I’m eagerly looking forward to hearing this for more ideas of how we can develop our new venture further.

We’re praying that as everyone is helped to focus on God’s Word it will indeed find its own way into each heart.

We’re grateful to Sarah for sharing her experience with us. Please pray for her and her team as they continue to serve older people in their community.

If there’s something you do in your church or community which is helping people to have faith in later life, we’d love to hear from you!