In praise of care in the community

During the past 6 months or so since starting this blog I have felt a deep well of gratitude within my heart for different individuals and professions.

I have written blogs about my family, about the church, about shopkeepers and the NHS. I have written of individuals who helped our family through like Joe Wicks and Jamie Oliver. I have written about teachers and, today, I want to turn our attention to another really important group of people.

I’m thinking today of those who care in the community for those who are more vulnerable.

I think of those who go into people’s homes to help with essential things like washing, toileting and moving our loved ones from bed to chair. I think of those who come on home visits to support those with mental health problems. Quite often, at considerable risk to themselves, this group of carers in the community has kept going through the most challenging days of the pandemic, over bank holidays and weekends to look after their clients and their clients’ families. They bring humour, compassion and dignity to people who maybe feel awkward and embarrassed at being in these difficult situations.

I heard a most moving interview on the radio in the car during the week where a man, called Donal, told his story. He spoke of his wife, Carmel, and her diagnosis with a serious illness that became terminal. He spoke of how she was cared for by so many people and her last days in a hospice. The carers, he said, looked after his wife and himself and his family as if they were the only people in the place, always offering time and space to process difficult things. There were little touches like finding favourite creams and lotions to bring refreshment in the middle of the night, or making gentle suggestions about what to expect as another stage unfolded. There were little prompts about important conversations to have and a depth of humanity and love and care as people walked the most difficult of journeys with them.

Many of us, perhaps, are fortunate enough not to encounter carers in our day to day lives. It’s like a world that is hidden from us but, in the days when I am permitted to be able to visit in people’s homes, I see so much of this remarkable work, as well as having seen it in my own family. My mum recently had a spell in hospital and came to stay with us to recuperate. As I was driving one day, a phonecall came through the car system from the local care in the community in her home town. They had a notification that she had been discharged from hospital and wanted to come to meet with her to see if there was anything she needed to continue to live at home. What a lovely reassuring call to get from that team who commit themselves to support people to live independently at home.

As the economic effects of the pandemic continue to be felt by so many with people on furlough, people being made redundant and losing their employment, it’s a time when many in our community feel very isolated and fearful for the future. Local churches are coming together to pray and offer practical assistance for those struggling to make ends meet.

We have a long standing connection with Christians Against Poverty in our church. We may not be assembling hampers in the usual way this year, but we are looking to provide resources to help those going through the darkest and most worrying of times. There are foodbanks like the Larder and the Trussell Trust that are trying to be agents of Christ’s compassion and care in our community. We were delighted at the height of lockdown to be able to partner with Cregagh Community Association to fund much needed food parcels for those unable to make it to the supermarkets at the time.

We see amazing initiatives in terms of care in the community and, surely, as followers of Jesus, these should be things we would want to be involved in. I’ve spoken many times of how heartened I am to see so many of these things going on all the time within our church family and looking to reach out beyond that. Jesus was someone who always had an eye for those who might be on the margins. He could see the isolation brought about by illness, painful past experiences and feeling like an outsider.

He came to break down the barriers and dividing walls that separate people and make us one under his authority. He combined creativity and contemplation in making a meaningful response to care in the community. He mobilised others too to get involved in this ministry.

At a time when we do have so many restrictions around meeting together, let’s do all in our power to be vigilant and offer care and support to those around us. Sometimes it’s hard to see and hear the struggles of our immediate neighbours when we are rushing about immersed in our own lives. Let’s pay attention to those around us and what they go through.

I’m grateful today for the carers in our community. They might be helping those who are more hidden because they aren’t in circulation so much anymore. They might be doing the quiet hidden tasks. They may be leaving the challenges and complexities of their own everyday life to make someone comfortable or give someone a break. It’s a truly beautiful thing they are doing.

Anyone wishing to pray for the work of the parish and situations in our world in need of prayer are welcome to join us at the parish prayer meeting on Thursday evenings. Just send an email to zoomtostfinnian@btconnect.com. I know some of our parishioners are very interested in the work of CMS Ireland, one of the agencies which we support who have mission partners in different parts of the world.

The annual conference Ignite is going online this year because of Covid 19 restrictions. Anyone wishing to share in the 3 hour programme on Saturday morning is invited to register on the website www.cmsireland.org and you will be sent a Zoom link. There will be updates from different situations and mission partners and all are welcome.

Looking forward to speaking again soon.

Much love to everyone, 

Jono.