Driven by the conviction that the church has a duty to care for its oldest members, Neal Shelton-Green has returned to the UK from Canada to join our Renewal Programme as Assistant Director of Operations (Commissioning). He shares why he is passionate about this area of ministry

Tell us a bit about your background…
I began as a nurse working in Eastbourne in adult and then paediatric nursing. I then joined the RAF as a nurse and moved to RAF Wroughton Wiltshire. After that, I trained in Swindon as a health visitor, taking on roles in education and management. I then moved to a local Sure Start Children’s Centre where I managed a multiagency team.

How did you end up working with older people in Canada?
A desire to do something different as a family led my wife Lynne and I and our five children to relocate to Vancouver in 2007. Here, I worked as a nurse among people living with HIV, many of whom were impacted by poverty and homelessness. In 2013 we relocated to the Okanagan region of British Colombia where I worked as a nurse with Baptist Housing and managed a team planning care for older people. This led to me managing two ‘campuses of care’ for faith-based organisations – Smith Creek Village (Baptist Housing) and Mountainview Village (Good Samaritan Society). A campus of care is where older people with differing needs can live. These campuses had strong connections to their local churches, with lots of opportunities for inter-generational ministry to take place.

Why did you decide to take on this new role with Pilgrims’ Friend Society?
We were always challenged about returning to the UK at some point to be close to family. When I heard about this role, I felt very drawn towards it. I am committed to working in the care sector, serving those who are in a position of vulnerability and cannot necessarily communicate or meet their own needs. I have a strong theological conviction that we should be caring for and honouring our believing elders. In the modern world, generations are increasingly divided and older people can become isolated. In the UK there is a long Judeo-Christian tradition of caring for our older members. I’m excited by the role the Renewal Programme could play in rekindling this.

Older people have so much to offer, in terms of talent and wisdom and life experience. Through my work in Canada, I have seen the joy that comes from different ages working together. For example, one year, older residents and local children put on a nativity play together. Jesus was a new-born baby and Mary was played by an 85-year-old woman. It was quite something to see! Through the Renewal Programme, we have a brilliant opportunity to create lovely modern spaces where older people can both live and be involved with community life.

What kinds of things will your new role involve?
One of the first projects I’ll be working on is Middlefields House in Chippenham. In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be recruiting a new staff team and managing the moving in of new residents. I’ll also be helping to develop plans for the building of further new care homes, from finding locations to getting the financial support in place and liaising with local authorities.

Neal would love you to pray:

  • That God would draw together a staff team for Middlefields House who have both the spiritual convictions and the practical gifts needed to serve older people
  • That we can find the right locations for our new homes
  • That churches would want to partner with us in serving older people in their communities

See inside Middlefields House with our fly-through video

This article first appeared in the Winter 2020 edition of The Pilgrims' Magazine