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September letter

September letter.
Dear everyone.
This summer we’ve had some wonderful weather. Long periods of hot sunshine and very little rain, but many people have found the weather rather trying. Most of us obeyed instructions and kept watering gardens to a minimum. The result was that lawns went very brow, in parts looking completely dead. Many were wondering whether they would ever come back to life again.
Then after a long delay it started to rain, and now my lawn is back to three quarters of its natural greenness although it still has some way to go.
I find however that the exceptionally warm weather earlier in August has brought to light some problems that are very common in society today -frequently summed up as part of the ‘blame culture’. Intensely warm conditions have tended to make dementia care patients for instance particularly restless and requiring more help. When there happens to be more than one person requiring help at a time, caring staff cannot be in two places at once; and if there is some mishap how quickly blame can be attached to harassed workers without the complete picture being seen.
Doctors nurses and medical staff, police officers. teachers, social workers and all the caring professions have similar problems. Mentally, physically and emotionally workers can easily become exhausted with their tasks and sometimes even dread having to face up to what lies in front of them because there is too much to cope with at a time.
There are situations of course where there is neglect, but it can be due to the fact that people feel discouraged by the difficulties that they have to face. Jesus said ‘Judge not that you be not judged’ and he reminds us that as we judge other people will be judged ourselves because many judgements have not looked fairly at the whole picture that is faced by those caring for others.
We all have to be extremely careful in any assessment that we make in any situation. There is always a tremendous amount that we do not know. I believe that we all have a ministry towards other people, and it is basically a ministry of encouragement.
Society will be a much happier place when we replace a ‘blame culture’ with an ‘encouragement culture!’
Let us remember in our prayers at this time all who are under great pressure because of their work as well as those who need all the care they can get.
Every blessing,
Sincerely, David

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August Letter

Dear everyone,
Quite often I lunch at dementia care homes where I act as chaplain. This is very convenient, for whilst being on one’s own I do not have to get quite so many meals myself. I was invited in both cases by the staff to go and have lunch with the residents regularly, and I have found it a very rewarding experience as well as convenient one.
One must bear in mind that many residents in these homes do not get many visitors and even those that have very little verbal ability or are in a rather confused state of mind, are pleased to have someone sitting at the same table as themselves who is not a resident. The conversations, brief and confusing as they often are to follow, usually have some grain of thought on which one can build a basic conversation. For many of them it can make their day.
There is another factor however that is very important in these visits. It is the role of the caring staff who have so many things to look after as they look after the needs of the residents. The hot weather of this summer season here has been particularly stressful for these carers who do such a wonderful work. To look after people with dementia makes considerable demands on the inner resilience of these carers. Many of them do it as a calling in life, although they would not describe their role in this way.
I have found myself really enriched by visiting the homes in this way, by both residents and the caring staff. There is a real challenge however for people to go in and spend time with those who need our support and interest whether they are related to us or not. Residents need friendship. Many miss the wider contact with human beings. The question is ‘Are we able to is sharpen their quality of life by our interest and support?
This letter may possibly need a response from someone who is reading it. Even a visit regularly for a few moments might surprise us how effective it can be, but we may also find that some residents have patches of memory which are far sharper than our own!
With all good wishes,
sincerely,
David

July letter

Dear everyone,

Waiting to see your name to appear on the screen in a doctors waiting room can be a daunting experience but also an intriguing one. Many names, both surnames and forenames may be strange to us, often reflecting the age, and the ancestral nationality. We might also ask ourselves the question, ‘I wonder how a person with that name came to live here.’
Some names originate from various parts of the British Isles, but the scope now however is worldwide. How intriguing this is. Some might even find it frightening.
But the other day a rather unusual European name came up on the screen. To my surprise a woman I know quite well responded. I often have a chat with her. She lives nearby. I have always known her by her first name, but never known her surname .
It made me suddenly start to think quite differently about all the unusual names I had seen that morning. When we know people personally what a difference it makes!
Although there are some times difficult and puzzling issues we have to face when people come to live amongst us from other parts of the world, the hand of friendship and getting to know them as people and taking an interest in their welfare can make a tremendous difference to us all.
We all have a responsibility to create strong community life. It has to be a two-way process of course but we all have a part to play in it. Strong cultures are created by inclusiveness, and as Jesus would remind us from the Commandments and the story of the good Samaritan. ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’
Are we prepared to live up to this great ideal? The well-being of the world depends on this.
Every blessing, David.

June letter

‘Royalty,Football and Creation.’

Dear everyone.
There are many vital world issues that need our prayers, and we must not neglect them. However there have been three things that have especially caught my attention during the last month.
The first is to do with royalty. I do not often follow their day-to-day activities; but the marriage of Prince Harry and Megan, now the Duchess of Sussex illustrates the wider ways in which love can cross all kinds of barriers-racial, cultural and circumstantial. Their wedding, seen by many millions on TV, shows how much royalty have moved away from conventional restrictions on the choice of partners. We all pray that their bonds of marriage may be strong,and help them to be a blessing to many people. We are already appreciatively aware of their concerns on social issues here in Nottingham.
Secondly: John Motson, ‘Motty’, has retired after 50 years as a football commentator. His enthusiastic commentaries have been a great source of entertainment to millions of people. I had the privilege of being his minister when I was in St Albans. What is not commonly known is that his father was a Methodist minister like myself. He preached his last sermon on a harvest festival Sunday in my church and John read the lesson. John’s commentating on football is going to be greatly missed.
Thirdly after a rather cold and very wet spring there is an abundance of colour in the created world around us. Because of the weather many plants have set their own agenda and there is a profusion of life in our gardens and in the countryside around us.
This profusion acts as a reminder to us that we must take care of, and understand more deeply the ecology of the created world, and worldwide we must work for the common good. Not only does this mean caring for the natural world together, but also coming to a deeper understanding of how people throughout the world can live together too.
It is good to know for example that Patriarch Bartholomew the First, the ‘green patriarch’, known by many as the leading patriarch of the Orthodox Churches, has taken up the cause of ‘caring for creation’ with great enthusiasm.
My hope is that all Christians, together with people of all faiths and outlooks will take on board this issue seriously, and pray that we may look after all the good things that God has given us in this world.
Sincerely,
David.

May letter

The Windrush Experience
Dear Everyone.
My First Appointment as a Minister was in Coventry when large numbers of immigrants were coming to this country from the West Indies via Empire Windrush.
They came full of enthusiasm, inspired strangely enough by posters in the West Indies with Enoch Powell’s face on it encouraging them as citizens of the Commonwealth to help us in this country in our time of need.
It was an opportunity that many of them keenly seized. They came full of excitement. Some of them brought their guitars with them and they would gladly strike up a calypso tune to entertain others anywhere.
They took on many menial jobs. Provision had not been made for housing them. Rachman-ism exploited them terribly, and in looking around for accommodation they found notices saying ‘no Blacks, Irish or dog owners’. Exploiters of all kinds even some from amongst their own islanders had a field day. In our local churches we set up a ‘West Indian welfare Association’.
Unfortunately, there were churches who failed miserably in looking after their new worshippers who came from very different cultural situations, and many new kinds of churches arose as the result of situations of neglect. However many did support their traditional churches in spite of the insularity in some instances that they had to face.
In my last appointment in St Albans I had the privilege of ministering to quite large numbers of West Indian friends again, of spending a sabbatical in St.Vincent and St. Kitts; and over most of the years of my ministry , baptising, marrying, conducting funeral services, receiving many into the membership of our churches and ministering to their spiritual needs.
How much we valued, and I still value the friendship of Afro-Caribbean friends, incomers from African countries, other parts of the world, and also people from many other parts of the British Isles as well.
My prayer just now is that all things that bring about social cohesion should be encouraged, the dignity of all people’s respected, and no one treated shabbily. The thoughts and aspirations of John Wesley also come to my mind. He considered that ‘The Whole World was His Parish.’
With all good wishes,
Sincerely,
David.

April letter

Dear Everyone.
An elderly person waiting for a bus said to me recently, ‘I can’t spend all day sitting in my house on my own with nobody to talk to.’
He then told me that he was going into Nottingham to the Victoria shopping centre where it is warm, some comfortable seating available, and chance to chat with other people.
Loneliness can be very hard to cope with. The strange thing is that the more inhabitants there are in a town or city the easier it is to feel lonely. ‘Wanting to get out of the house’ is common amongst those who have been bereaved, and often the longer they have been together with their partners, the more intense their loneliness feels. Many do not live near their families due to the work they do, and one’s neighbours may also be out working all day.
We may be fortunate and have good neighbours around us or keep an eye on us, and help when needed. They are’ worth their weight in gold’ as the saying goes.
Speech is a God given gift. Sometimes we can say too much and bore people, but we can all have a role where we are proactive in meeting the needs others by sharing conversations with them and an important part of that role is simply listening. Even just saying ‘ good morning’ can sometimes be a splendid opening for conversation. It can make others feel wanted, and as we get to know people we may be able to invite them in our homes to have coffee or more. What a great role shop assistants can have chatting while serving their customers. Likewise medical staff while meeting the needs of their patients.
We can all play our part in the battle against loneliness. We can help to make others feel unique simply by a few words of encouragement. Sometimes of course we do need to be on our own in order to think quietly, carefully and prayerfully; but basically human beings are social creatures, and even if they are suffering from illnesses preventing them from talking rationally or not even at all, they all need words from other human beings to help them along their way.
We are now in the season of Easter where Christians proclaim the message that Christ is ‘alive’. Part of the Easter message is that in moments of loneliness we can be aware of ‘another’ who is travelling along with us on life’s journey and beyond. Human company means a lot, but there is a sense in which the risen Christ waits to be our companion on the whole of our pilgrimage.
Prayer can help us tremendously along the way. May we play our part in helping the lonely.
With all good wishes for a very happy Easter,
Every blessing,
David.

March letter

Dear everyone.
Just now the roads and pavements here are very slippy . A doctor friend said to me ‘you ought to get a stick. As you get older it is so easy to fall. A stick is like another leg. It makes it so much easier to keep your balance.’
I have resisted having a stick for a long time mainly I suspect for vain reasons. I don’t like people to think that I’m getting old, but someone recently gave me a stick. It’s appropriate to my height, and two days ago, rather self-consciously, I went out using it for the first time.
Straightaway I started to feel the benefits.
As human beings we can all act stupidly, and not use the extra help we need. Sometimes we underestimate our abilities to do things, but at other times we think we can go on as we have always done-failing to adjust to changing circumstances, and sometimes stubbornly refusing to accept help and advice that we are given.
We all need support in many aspects of our lives whatever age we are, and whatever our abilities may be. We may need the support of friends, spiritual support, the organisations to which we belong, our families, medical care and the facilities our local authorities provide. Likewise we will want to give support to others; but there is something else I believe we need deep down in our being.
My mind goes back to the 23rd Psalm, where the Psalmist says ‘the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want’… And even in the darkest moments of the shadow of death, he says ‘I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.’
The Psalmist puts his trust in God as the One who was supporting him-spiritually helping him along his way through life’s struggles and anxieties.
We all need support, and often we have the privilege of helping others in their needs, but there is also the way of faith to which we are all invited to find another kind of support, and in our better moments, many of us try our best to follow.
We could well imagine the words of the psalmist when speaking of God’s help and support saying ‘your staff acts as my walking stick, and helps me along life’s way.’
It’s a thought that might help many of us, especially in our times of special need!
With all good wishes in this season of Lent.
Sincerely, David.