We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Judi about her work with older people, particularly during the impact of the Coronavirus. Judi is part of a Baptist Church in Bristol, and is a Faith in Later Life Church Champion. The church building is very modern, and one of Judi’s jobs is to create the window displays. Judi spoke with us about her ministry with older people and how she is working to create that connection between communities and the church even despite these strange times.
Judi shared with us how her involvement with older people became more natural as she got older. She shared with us how, “my involvement with older people and my interest of them has always been there, but it kind of kicked off when my husband and I retired. We can see clearer what it’s like in older age. So, it has been natural for us to gravitate towards that age group more than we did before.” Judi referred to her ministry with older people as a natural extension of her stage of life.
Sometimes, God calls us to serve from the place we are already in. Often, our life experiences and the stage of life we are at helps us more easily connect with those around us. For example, mother and baby groups create connection between people in a similar stage of life, as do groups for the elderly. And Judi certainly found that as she got older, her stage of life and the experiences she had were shared by many others in her age group. God wanted to use where she was at, this natural connection, to share His love with the older people around her.
Judi is on a team that runs a luncheon club. She shared with us how at first, she was a helper. It was her job to set up the tables. The luncheon club was catering for 70 people and she and her husband would have to get there early in the morning to get everything ready. They would also help by offering people lifts there and home again, in addition to serving at the club.
At 81, Judi is now a member of the luncheon club herself. She helps introduce people and get people talking. The luncheon club is a mix of Christians and non-Christians. It is a place where people can enjoy a two-course meal and a tea or coffee. There is then a ten-minute talk, a hymn, and a prayer. Although there are a lot of non-Christians in attendance, many of them appreciate this structure and enjoy hearing what the talks are about.
As a natural extension of the luncheon club, Judi started ‘Friday Fusion’ (fun, friendship, and faith) and was overjoyed when 50 people came to the first session. Judi shared how, “during the programme we sometimes have a speaker, or I can interview people to help draw out their story. We therefore communicate faith in a natural way and people have liked and enjoyed it.”
During the effects of COVID, Judi has done her best to maintain socially distanced groups of six, such as her weekly craft morning for ladies. These mornings are a wonderful time for people to get together and talk. But with the restrictions, it has been important to keep the rules strict to ensure that everyone is protected.
The church has also been offering a communion service, all arranged with the safety precautions in mind. Judi has been using pre-packaged communion wines and wafers to take into care homes. This helps connect those who cannot attend a church service in a way they could not before.
As it has been for most people, Judi has found it challenging to connect with people safely during COVID. She feels the burden on her heart to care for older people and help make sure they are looked after and not feeling lonely during this time. As a result, Judi devotes a lot of her time to creating newsletters, cards, and other items that can be delivered to people as a reminder that they are not forgotten.
From a personal standpoint, Judi has also arranged to walk with people. She finds this is a great way to connect and, in addition to regular phone calls, she is in touch with about 150 people on a regular basis. As Judi told us, “there are so many people feeling so cut off. If I didn’t make the first move, I would feel the same. If you have the strength to be proactive, you must do what you can because your role is vital in connecting people together – and at this time that is very important.”
Judi shared with us a story of her neighbour whose husband died. She shared with us how, “I befriended her, and I offered to go to a bereavement service with her which was non-threatening, to remember people. I went with her to the local parish church. She attended a bereavement counselling service and I accompanied her to that. She was willing to come to ‘Friday Fusion’ and it has helped her connect with God.”
We are always so encouraged to hear how striking up friendships with people helps lead them to the Lord! God asks us to love people and when we do that, He attracts them in. As Debbie said, “people are coming to church and they are listening. They are going to church and they are being drawn in. It’s about friendship and connecting with people.”
‘And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.’ – Hebrews 10:24-25
How can you connect with someone today? Take a moment to consider who you could offer the gift of friendship too. Friendships and connections are getting so many people through this lonely and difficult time because they are helping people connect with a God who loves them. If you love and value an older person, it makes them consider that perhaps, God loves and values them too. And you get to be a witness to God working a miracle in that person’s life by bringing them into a knowledge of Him, His sacrifice for them, and His constant presence and help in times of trouble.
We would love to support more people who are in ministry with older people, or who are interested in starting something new. Who can you share our Church Champions page with today?
‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ – Psalm 46