Musings and Resources

Inclusive Church IV: Between Remembering and Forgetting

“Forsake me not, O God, in mine old age, when I am gray headed” Psalm 71.16

It’s been drawn to my attention (over the course of a whole day at Church House) that the Church of England is only just cottoning on to the need to make our worship, our churches and our congregations more accessible to the elderly and to people with dementia (not necessary the same people). Alongside the work we do for children, we need to think about how we enable people to age creatively.

This seems counter-intuitive, I know: our congregations, by and large, are full of older folk, what else do we need to do? But how do we value them? Speak to them as are in the ‘fourth age’ (80 years+) and they often speak of being marginalised and ignored. As their mobility, their hewoman-208723_1920aring and sight and their ‘usefulness’ lessens, they risk being side-lined. So how do we counter the pervasive social assumption that age is decline and diminishment, and to celebrate the keener spiritual thirst of our older brothers and sisters? How do we build a community in which frailty and change are part of the scaffold of our relationships?

Our response is essentially threefold – liturgical, pastoral and cultural – and is worth hinging on a focus on dementia-friendly approaches (on the basis that what’s good for people with dementia, and their supporters, is good for a much wider group of people).


  • It is worth thinking about having a monthly service for people with cognitive deterioration – as we do for them just building up their cognitive skills[1] ;
  • Consider an annual celebration of the Fourth Age and/or an annual service of ‘lament’ for carers and those facing a deterioration of their cognition;
  • Godly Play is increasingly recognised as working well with dementia sufferers, and indeed with congregations of ‘mixed ability’;
  • Vintage Messy‘ is a newly forming spin-off of Messy Church and worth exploring;
  • Think more proactively about inclusion in the same way as we do for other groups –
    twiddle muffs – a picture of  twiddlemuffs by their volunteer knitters
    • Do we leave times of silence for people to digest what has been said?
    • Could we make available art and sensory objects to help people engage at a non-verbal level?
    • How repetative is our worship? Are there regular prayers, responses or patterns that are easily recognised or learned?


  • What does incarnational look like, when the focus of cognition is absent or elusive?
  • How well are we providing support (pastoral and sacramental) for them as cannot come to church?
  • What is our relationship with any local care homes? (Where there are many, is it possible to ‘spread the load’ with other nearby parishes?)
    Mother and son holding hands
    • How well do we support local care homes mark transition within their community (arrivals/illnesss/marking the death of residents)?
    • Do we pay attention to the staff and careers around the residents in care homes?
    • Can we support the recognition of spiritual needs in a care plan assessment?
    • Can we support the creation of a faith/sensory room/area with objects and art to help residents reflect spiritually?
  • Consider training ‘buddies’ – people resourced and trained to support people who are less mobile or suffering with dementia – or even Anna Chaplains/Friends.

Cultural – habits of respect and mutuality:

  • How do we talk about the older people in our congregation and in our community?
  • Create a culture of hospitality and inclusion that accepts the more erratic behaviour of dementia sufferers.
  • How does our theology encourage a sense of self that is deeper than intellectual cognition?
    • Do we have a sense of the ‘enduring self‘ that is of worth even when hidden or fragmented?
    • If a person is ‘praying without understanding’ how do we understand their relationship with God?
  • Consider becoming a ‘dementia friendly organisation‘.

Further resources:

[1] AKA ‘children’.


Diocesan Fellowship of Pray-ers

A guest blog by June Wright, Malling Deanery rep for the Dicoesan Pray-ers.

Why do we talk about prayer so much in the church?  Why are so many people self- conscious about prayer?  What is the value of prayer?  Who should do the praying? When should we pray?

Prayer is one of the most valuable tools that God gives us, to enable and empower us to do the work, that God places before us.  We can do nothing without it, we are impotent, without prayer.  Jesus, in His time on earth, demonstrated the importance of prayer throughout His ministry.  In the garden of Gethsemane, He pleaded, in prayer, to have the cup taken from Him, He went out into the wilderness, on His own, to pray for forty nights, before His crucifixion, He taught us how to pray, by giving us the words of the Lord’s Prayer, and I could go on with many more examples. Prayer is like a bridge, it fills the gap between us and God, the Father.  Jesus, intercedes, on our behalf, constantly and continually.  So we see that Jesus, valued prayer as part of His ministry, enormously. Prayer is about communicating with our creator, a constant conversation.  With prayer, we can make a difference, we can change things as we bring before our Lord, our concerns and anxieties.  It is the cement that binds our faith into a working project, we are a team.  Which is why it’s talked about in church,  the body of God’s people, prayer is the breath of that body. Most churches have a prayer ministry of some kind, in the shape of groups, websites, prayer sheets to distribute to the congregation and community, corporate prayer during services, private prayer. Some people have difficulty with praying out loud, in groups, that is not a problem, as long as you participate and pray in your heart, the prayer being prayed, becomes stronger.    Think of a rope.  One strand in a rope can be broken, when there are three or more strands, it is three times stronger and cannot easily be broken. When should we pray? Some would say, with every breath we take.  When, is not important, doing it, is.

In Rochester Diocese, we have a Fellowship of prayers, committed to praying for Parish, Deanery and Diocese.  The concept began in 1990 at the beginning of the Decade of Evangelism.  At the end of the decade, The Fellowship continued the work.  They meet twice a year, at Diocesan Office, to consider all aspects of the prayer ministry.  We have Quiet Days, this year it will be on 15 May 2016 at 10.30 in Snodland, Kent, meeting at Christ Church on the Malling Road.  The post code is ME6 5EE   The Quiet Day is being led by Philip Hesketh, Dean of Rochester Cathedral.  There are approximately 600 people in the Diocese committed to the work of the pray-ers.  Who should they be?  Please consider joining us to proclaim the Word and Work of God, in our lives and in the places where we live and work.

Why the Chrism Eucharist?

The Chrism Eucharist is one of my favourite moments in Holy Week – but when I was scouting round Google for a quick summary of the nature and importance of the event I could find little that was Anglican, so here goes:

The Chrism Eucharist – once commonly called the Maundy Mass – is a combination of the ancient practice of the Bishop blessing the oils for the year to come with the more recent custom of renewing ordination vows in Holy Week in the light of Gethsemane (see the ‘historical note’ p278 Times and Seasons) and of the Great

15th century painting, ‘Man of Sorrows’.


The service is a rare opportunity for clergy to come together in unity around our Great High Priest and remind ourselves of the source and nature of our vocation. It weaves together the interdependance of the holy orders, emphasising that all bishops are also priests, and all priests also deacons and all deacons are part of the priesthood of all believers. More importantly it calls us all to pray for, and support each other in our common service of the Gospel.

Chorister     At your ordination as bishop, you received the gift of the Spirit, that you might lead the Church in mission, and send out ministers in Christ’s name; that you might promote its unity, uphold its discipline, and guard its faith; and that you might teach and govern the people committed to your charge.  Will you continue faithfully in this ministry, watching over Christ’s own flock, and building them up in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace?

Bishop        By the help of God, I will.

The chorister turns to address the priests, deacons and the congregation.

Chorister     Will you pray for our bishops, that they may be faithful to the great trust that has been handed to them?  Will you support and uphold them in this gift that has been given to them?

All               By the help of God, we will.

 The priests stand with the Bishop

A deacon addresses all the priests

Deacon       At your ordination to the priesthood, you took authority to watch over and care for God’s people, to absolve and bless them in his name, to proclaim the gospel of salvation, and to minister the sacraments of his New Covenant.  Will you continue as faithful stewards of the mysteries of God, preaching the Gospel of Christ and ministering his holy sacraments?

Priests        By the help of God, I will.

The deacon turns to address the deacons and the congregation.

Deacon       Will you pray for our priests, asking the Lord to bless them with the fullness of his love, and support them, that they may be faithful ministers of his word and sacrament, and lead his people in the way of salvation?

All:              By the help of God, we will.

The deacons join the priests and bishops, standing

The chorister addresses all the deacons

Chorister     At your ordination as a deacon, you received the yoke of Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.  Will you continue faithfully in this ministry, to build up God’s people in his truth and serve them in his name?

Deacons     By the help of God, I will.

 The chorister turns to address the congregation

Chorister     Will you pray for our deacons, that the Lord may pour upon them the riches of his grace, and support them in their service?

All               By the help of God, we will.

The congregation stand

The deacon addresses the laos, the holy people of God, including lay ministers, lay workers and officers

Deacon       By your Baptism you received the life the Christ.  In your work and ministry you are called to be faithful in prayer, and by word and example to minister to those for whom Christ died.  Will you do all that is in your power to be faithful in this calling?

Lay People & Ministers By the help of God, I will.

 The chorister addresses the bishops, priests and deacons

Chorister     Will you pray for the whole people of God and support them as they live out their baptism into Christ that they may be constant in prayer and steadfast in faith, and serve God and neighbour with joy.

Will you encourage and affirm those who through their Baptism have answered God’s call to serve in licensed public ministry in Christ’s Church?

All the ordained     By the help of God, we will.

Having renewed our ordination vows, the liturgy turns the blessing of the oils: of chrism, of baptism, and for the healing of the sick. Beyond the Eucharist, these are at the heart of the sacramental life of the Church – baptism, healing and commissioning – and call us back out again, into our various ministries.

In many dioceses, the Chrism Eucharist naturally flows into a lunch – either corporately or severally – as clergy and other ministers and officers feast together before the exertions of the tridiium.

The Chrism Eucharist, in short, is an opportunity for clergy (principally) to be ministered to, to reconnect with the touchstone of their vocation, and to reflect on the nature of priestly service before they pour themselves out into the mysteries of the Passion and Resurrection. The people gathered in the cathedral are there, not only for their own renewal, but in support of their sisters and brothers in the work of the Gospel.

It is a beautiful service – and I encourage you to attend[1].


[1] The Chrism Eucharist in the Rochester Diocese in 2017 is on Thursday 13th April at 10:30am


Spoken from the heart

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psa 119:105

Many who are in ministry will have experienced attending – and praying with – some soul seemingly swallowed by dementia, only to find that they can recite vast quanities of the Prayer Book and Psalter – not to mention sundry hymns – by rote. The words and rhythms are ingrained so deeply that, when all else seems lost to them, this still abides.

Words make up who we are. When the Greeks came up with the idea of the Word, the Logos, it was with the consciousness that words are more than simply how we speak, they are how we define the world. We think, we plan, we react with words.

Imagine if the thought world that we are constructing around the things that cross our path today were made up of words from scripture – holy words, God-breathed words. Then build on that words making up the prayers that have built up the worship of our Church over generations, millenia, even. What difference would that make about the thoughts we have, the decisions we make, the actions that follow? If we put together a garden of the scriptures in our mind where we can walk and, to use a Johninne word, abide. Our everyday words and thoughts will begin to be built by these learnt phrases, forming the foundation of our selves.

For it is not only with age or illness that our intellect can fail us. Stress, crisis, tiredness, wrath – all these can steal our words from us, affect our ability to see, to hear, to reach out. But if we build a library of well-worn texts within the deep places of our minds and hearts, these prayers and verses can be waiting for us when our own words fail us. In the midst of chaos we have an anchor of holy words, waiting to keep us rooted and grounded in the Word when we need him most.

Imagine if these were the words that made first thing we said in the morning, the last thing we said at night. What would we like our last words on this earth to be?
What difference would that make?

So a possible Lent disciple this year might be to apply ourselves to drawing some words down into our heart. And who knows, it might be a habit that sticks …

Chouse House has done a whole series of Pocket Prayer books, which lend themselves to this, and also Words for Worship, Prayers from the Heart of the Church of England.

There’s also a website – Learn Scripture – which uses the the Charlotte Mason Scripture Memory System and the principle of spaced repetition to help people learn passages from a range of translations (you choose).

I’d be interested to hear what other sources people have, or what works best for people when they’re trying to learn passages and prayers.

Rochester Link, special edition 

My thanks to all those who helped putting together the February edition of the Link. This Special Edition of the Link, focuses on worship and spirituality. It was guest edited by the Rev Canon Susanne Carlsson, Adviser for Spirituality, and myself. You’ll notice that some of the regular articles from Link – the Bishop’s diary, for example, and the diocesan calendar of intercessions – are missing from this paper. All of these are still available online, but we hope you will appreciate having here the extra articles.

It’s a good month to focus on prayer and contemplation, approaching Lent as we are. At this time of year we look to refresh our discipleship. There is a mixture of themes that start to emerge as we walk through these six weeks, stepping from our identification with Christ’s fast in the wilderness, to journeying alongside him on his last journey to the cross. We juggle penitence with discipline, and try not to get the two too muddled. We often simplify our liturgy and our ‘decor’ in order to mimic the wilderness in our worship.

Some of this will be about our personal disciplines. It’s becoming a bit of a cliché to ‘take something up’ for Lent, but so it is for many of us. Many will be planning to spend more time reflecting, praying and reading the Scriptures during this season. Archdeacon Clive therefore writes about the resources we might use for prayer and reflection. Also, this year the diocese is offering a number of quiet days as we move into Lent. It’s a season that lends itself to taking time apart from the madding crowd, to pray and take stock, whether simply for a few hours or a retreat numbered in days. So we have a centre page spread on the resources for retreat and reflection offered in the diocese at Burrswood, West Malling and Chatham.

But it’s not just as individuals that we reflect on our practice and on Scripture. Lent is often a time for parishes to take up new practices, or to set time aside to reflect together on their common journey. Susanne Carlsson has included some notes on the prayer pack that she and her team offer, while Sue records her experience of a quiet day at St Peter’s, Pembury. Stephanie Tibber gives an insight into putting together a themed labyrinth, as she did at the parish of St Peter’s, Walthamstow, for a Mother’s Union day last November. (If the idea of labyrinths grabs you, Barbara Wallace has written about the history and resonances of this particular prayer path.)

By far the most common lenten practice is the lent course, so Claire Boxall has given us an introduction to this year’s lent course: a Place in the Crowd, a course aimed at helping congregations come to grips with the Rochester Conversation. “Our Conversation our Future” is meant to stimulate prayerful thought and dialogue about our place in God’s economy – what the Spirit is saying to the churches of this Diocese.

And there’s more within these pages: Godly Play, spiritual direction, some thoughts on the use of space and on the practice of hospitality. These are articles on how we help each other discern what God is doing in our lives and how we express it, how we support one another in our journey and in our worship. Finally Caroline Clark has written a piece introducing the Archbishops’ project for national renewal: Thy Kingdom Come, an octave of prayer for the work of the Church – of Our Lord – not only in West Kent, but in the United Kingdom.

I hope you enjoy having something a bit more themed than usual, and I hope the thread Susanne and I have tried to run through this paper leads you somewhere fruitful (which is not at all the same thing, necessarily, as it leading you where she and I expected or intended).

Lindsay Llewellyn-MacDuff


Inclusive Church III

Following on from last year’s blogs, Inclusive Church I & II,  a guest blog by Karen Senior, Warden of Lay Ministry:

At the beginning of December, Mencap published a poll which had found that  70% of parents of children with a learning disability have felt unwelcome in public. It made me wonder how well our churches do to reassure such families who might venture to join us on a Sunday that they are really welcome.

It also set me to remembering back 20-30 years, when we were a family with 4 little boys, one of whom had Down’s Syndrome – and I recalled my husband lodging a complaint with the duty manager of a National Trust* property in Kent, politely telling him that the attitude of one of his volunteers was “exactly what makes family outings difficult for families with children who have special needs”.

Margaret of Castello, patron saint of the poor and the disabled.

Our experience in churches has generally been better than that – so I hope we aren’t in a lucky minority there! When Gareth joined our family, in the 1980’s, we worshipped at St Mark’s Gillingham, where the church family embraced and supported us through the adoption process and afterwards – in just the same way they had with our other sons.

Brian’s selection for ordination training meant leaving St Mark’s, but his placement church in his first year at college had good children’s groups for our boys, and one of the church’s teenagers offered to be attend Gareth’s group with him, which meant he had the support needed to be part of the group for his age (6)  – a year long act of service for which we were truly thankful.

Most churches don’t have someone to be such a special volunteer – so how do we make families with learning disabled children welcome? Generally in the same ways we make any visiting families welcome: which means lots of reassurance that they’re fine, and not being a problem. As a Lay Minister who sometimes welcomes visiting families to church now – I can see that parents still come to church now as sure as I was back then, that their kids are louder than they really are and must be disturbing the whole congregation. Sometimes of course – that is true – as it is with all children, but Jesus didn’t say “let the little children come to me if they are quiet” – and whilst it might sometimes be helpful to suggest a space to scream in, before coming back to join everyone, most churches have sound systems to amplify the ministers, and a relaxed parent is much more likely to come back a second time than one who feels the whole congregation disapproved of them or their child.

Half the parents interviewed in the Mencap poll thought public attitudes towards children with a learning disability are negative, and nearly half said they felt other parents were somewhat, or very, unhappy for their child to spend time with children with learning disabilities.

A church welcome is not just the responsibility of the minister leading the service – but something all the congregation can contribute to. Parents whose children go to special schools often don’t get the school gate relationships so may really appreciate friendships with other parents. Older members whose grandchildren are distant might enjoy sitting with families to accompany and reassure.

All age worship services are sometimes the loudest and most  exuberant events we offer – but for some children with learning disabilities this can be scary. Cinemas and shopping malls are starting to offer quiet sessions with low lights. These are generally promoted as Autism aware events but can benefit a wider group that Autistic children – and as churches we can’t expect noisy and lively services to suit all children.

An article like this can only skim the surface of a big subject, but children grow into adults – and there are over a million adults with a learning disability in the UK. Like everyone else each of these is an individual and their needs and abilities are wide ranging, but I asked Gareth what he most likes about being part of a local church congregation he said:

“I like joining in with people, listening to God’s word, I like quiet songs, and listening to the prayers. We pray for countries that need peace. I like it when people take time to have a chat with me. I like helping- welcoming people and putting the Bibles out and taking the offering. I like being part of the community in the church and we have bread and wine to remember Jesus died on the cross.”

There are resources and websites which can help churches to think further about this, and I am excited that there are initial conversations happening about the planning of an LLM training module for ministry to people with learning disabilities. Watch this space!

* In fairness to the National Trust – I reckon their welcome of families has improved dramatically since then!

Additional Resources, mostly gathered by Susie Pinder:

Diocese of Liverpool 
Prospectus Link          
Through the Roof      
Church of England Site
Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales –

Material to help prepare candidates for Confirmation: confirmation-pack-for-people-with-ld-liverpool-2011

Pictorial communication aids: pictorial-education-communicationthe-lords-prayer-confession-and-creed-in-pictures-for-ld

A brief guide to marriage preparation for ALDs: relationships-and-marriage-for-adults-with-ld-loverpool

Advice on  Adapting material for ALD

A translation of the First Communion children’s book for children with a learning disability by Redemptorist Press.

(ADL: ‘Adults with Learning Difficulties/Disabilities’)

The Bishop’s coming …


Bishop James enjoys being out and about in the Diocese, I know. I also cherish a number of opinions about the opinions and thought processes of a parish as the time for an episcopal visit draws near.

I like to think that people look forward to seeing him, and would like the occasion to go well. But I’m rather worried that, instead, a visit from the Bishop can feel like an inspection. It’s really, really not.

So, here’s some observations and suggestions to, as they say, make the most out of your episcopal visit.


Whatever the reason for the Bishop’s visit, he can be an opener of doors and a builder of bridges (as long as you tell him what’s going on). It’s the most natural thing in the world to get in touch with the institution or individual that you need on board and say, the Bishop’s coming, would you like to be there – or, as it might be, could I bring him to you. Or do you have trouble persuading different congregations or generations to meet together? How about a Bishop to encourage everybody to be in the same place at the same time? Let the Bishop be what he was ordained to be – a focus for unity, and an ambassador for the Church.

Parish services

I think the vast majority of visits by Bishop James to the parishes around the Diocese are to parish services. In other words, parish A is holding a Patronal or an anniversary or even simply an ordinary Sunday morning service and you’ve invited the Bishop to attend.

This means the service is your baby, and the Bishop will do his best to fit in with what you want to do (although if the service is a Eucharist, it is usual for the Bishop to preside). By and large, I won’t be there, it will be for you to provide everything that the Bishop needs.

Celebrating local talent at Horsmonden

It’s an opportunity for you to look at your own service with stranger’s eye. If you wanted to show off your best welcome, your best order of service, your best worship is this what you’d use? Once again, this isn’t an inspection, but it could be an opportunity for self-audit.

Alternatively, you might want to do something a bit different. Maybe the service is an oddity, may be the Bishop is coming at a key point in the Church’s year. It could be an opportunity to think afresh about how that act of worship might speak powerfully of Lenten solemnities or Christmas celebrations, an opportunity to be imaginative, to experiment. (If it goes horribly wrong, you can always blame Bishopscourt!)

Whatever you decide to do, let me know. If you know what you’re doing, please let me have the order of service formatted to print (so that I can print out a copy of your order of service) as soon as possible. And if you want to review, reflect, redesign or do something special, then I will give you as much (or as little) help as you want.

Bishop’s services

These are confirmation services and services to commission clergy licensed to the Diocese (new incumbents et cetera). It means that it is for the Bishop, as it were, to bring his service with him to stage in the parish church. By and large, I will come with him and will

Symbols of ministry from the institution at St Philips’ Tunbridge Wells

make sure the Bishop has everything he needs.

Because these are the Bishop’s services, we at Bishopscourt will provide you not only with a template for the service into which you can put your hymns and readings et cetera, but will also provide you with what are intended to be comprehensive notes. Please read them carefully. Even if you have hosted one of the Bishop’s services before, these notes are updated regularly. Bishop James is very clear about how he wants these services to go – even if it’s a bit different from your usual practice, please trust him.

But the Bishop also wants it to feel at home. This is an opportunity for festival gathering. Be encouraged to invite people, to think about how worship works best in your building, to celebrate the particularities of your place and your people.

Forms, facts – boring but important stuff

As soon as possible, please send us the form I tend to refer to as the Bishop’s briefing notes (it’ll be called something like 2016-bishops-briefing-meetings-and-other-events /services/events/schools/confirmation). The more information you give us the better we can prepare the Bishop for the visit. It’s generally better for us to have the form back without all the information (you can always fill in the gaps later) than to get the form uncomfortably close to the event itself (or not at all). If we haven’t given you the form yet, you can always ask for it.

Tell us who else might be there, if the headteacher’s recently had a bereavement, if the reader usually does the dismissal at the end of the service, if a churchwarden is no longer speaking to the treasurer or even simply if a particular route often floods – truly and honestly, the more information the better.

Much of the information we ask for may seem obvious to you, or you may already have told me (or Emma) much of it in various email/phone correspondence, but I can’t emphasise how much easier it makes it if all the information we need is in one place in a consistent format – especially if there are several similar events/services happening in a small amount of time. Also, we might have missed a change of plan and have the wrong date/time/place in the Bishop’s diary. The briefing notes are a safety net.

So, if we at Bishopscourt can do anything to help you prepare for the Bishop’s visit, do let us know, and if you have any questions please ask. If we haven’t got in touch with you but you want to start planning, do get in touch and give us a nudge.

But most of all, please, relax.

It’s not a test, but it could be an opportunity to do new things.