It's Official!

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Every day I read The Times to see if there are any articles that might help Debbie, Jon and me as we seek to make a case to potential funders and Church groups near and far about the useful work Anna Chaplains can do to support older people in society on behalf of the Church.

Most days there is an article, sometimes more than one, and last week was no exception.

The science editor, Tom Whipple wrote: A study carried out over 16 yrs by scientists from Harvard has found out that ' belief in the pearly gates may be a good way of postponing the day that you arrive on their threshold'! Women, regularly attending religious services, have been found to live on average five months longer than those who don't attend Church. They also experienced markedly lower rates of cancer and heart attacks. A professor of epidemiology observed that one key factor is social support. Church members were also found to have lower depression, more optimism and fewer of them smoked!

It is wonderful to take my place with so many of you in the Parish of the Resurrection and the Methodist Church as you give so freely of your time to support older people in Alton. It is certainly a town where I would love to end my days, knowing there would be a wonderful community around me, where people have a 'cup half full' attitude to living.

Many of you volunteer so freely giving up your time. You visit people at home, support them by running fantastic Clubs like Hard of Hearing, Open Sight and providing Lunch Clubs at The Methodist Church and more recently at Beech. It's these countless acts of Christian kindness that make the world go round and, its official, make life last longer!

It is not only younger Christians who offer support. Along with many of you, I see simple, yet deeply moving, acts of kindness every day as older people support each other:

'Excuse me,' Lily ( 102 yrs old ) said in the middle of a mid week Communion, 'sorry to bother you.'
'Could I have some water please.'
'Here is water, Lily' said Elizabeth (99yrs old)
'Have a sip, Lily. Slowly, thats right.
Is that enough?'

At another Care Home recently, over a cup of coffee, Residents were sharing the problems of living in a Community with people not of their choosing. Much loved clothing sometimes goes missing, precious plants are allowed to dry out. Personal Care sometimes interferes with attendance at Communion..Residents sleep and snore in public areas...Yet there was a generosity of spirit amongst them all and plenty of sympathy and support for each other. One Resident summed it up saying, 'its all about give and take'. Many of them are the first to appreciate how hard the Staff work and how short staffed they often are.

None of us knows when we will reach 'the pearly gates'. In our Churches we regularly pray and reach out in love to those who are ill or supporting others who are ill. Not everyone lives to old age and it is very hard to have to cope with the trauma of loved ones dying young or unexpectedly. Life can be very cruel. But we can thank God for the fine example of many older Christians as they draw nearer to those gates and rejoice in the scientific facts being produced that being part of a Christian Community can help us to live just that little bit longer . 'Perhaps a message of hope, the article concludes, 'gives people a more optimistic outlook on life' . At this joyful time in the Church's year after Easter and Pentecost we can rest in the Christian Hope that, when it is our turn to pass through death into eternal life, we can be sure that the best is yet to be.

Helen Jesty May 2016

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