Sarah Slater is the Training Lead across the Church of England Diocese of Guildford. She explains how a talk by Louise Morse, speaker and author for Pilgrims’ Friend Society, helped to equip pastoral teams for ministry with older people
Earlier this year I was hosting a training event for pastoral visitors and pastoral assistants from churches across our diocese. This was the first time the group had met altogether since before the pandemic, a total of about 300 volunteers from around 160 varied parishes. We were in much need of reconnection and encouragement. Louise had been warmly recommended to me by Pippa Cramer, the pastoral care and seniors minister at Holy Trinity Church Claygate (which I also attend), known for co-founding the Daily Hope phoneline and creating the Hymns We Love evangelistic resource for seniors with husband Steve.
Louise understood from the outset what I was trying to achieve. In fact, in preparation for the day she took the time to have three video calls with me, of around one hour each, to gain a deep understanding of what we needed. She really listened.
At the event, which took place at St John’s Church, Egham, the talk Louise gave was so uplifting. Those who serve older people can sometimes feel over-looked and insignificant. Louise affirmed and encouraged everyone in their roles. She helped everyone to see how valuable ministry with older people is.
She did this by pointing people back to God’s view of older people as revealed in the Bible. She spoke of how older people have so much to give and should be honoured. There’s a risk they can become the forgotten generation. Louise helped us focus on how older people are created in God’s image, and how they have real wisdom that should be valued and shared.
Louise spoke with so much passion and so much heart. You can’t fail to be inspired in her presence. People were drawn in by her incredible storytelling. She spoke about individuals like David, well into his 90s and the ‘spiritual father’ of the care home where he lives. And Douglas, who wrote a book at the age of 100. She quoted Billy Graham who said, “I had been taught all of my life how to die, but no one had ever taught me how to grow old.”
She helped us reflect on how there is important work to be done in changing our own attitudes to ageing, and to those around us who are further along the path. Louise also helped people see just how deep an impact befriending ministries can have. What may start with a cup of tea and a chat can lead to opportunities for prayer and reading the Bible, with older people returning to and reconsidering truths they may have heard many years before in Sunday School. She pointed to people the Brain and Soul Boosting resource she has created specially to equip church members for ministry.
Dementia is something that affects many older people across our congregations. During the question time, she answered people’s questions with great insight, highlighting how those living with dementia remain alive spiritually and offering practical advice for those caring for those with dementia.
Everyone came away feeling inspired and encouraged. There were those who have been ministering to older people for 20 years or more who received a much needed boost to carry on, and those who are new to this area of ministry who came away with an enlarged view of its scope and potential.
What Louise brings is truly unique. You can’t bottle it. She will speak into your individual context and those who hear her will come away truly blessed. I’d encourage any church seeking to honour its older members to invite Louise to come and speak.
To enquire about a visit from Louise, email her on email@example.com
For more information about Louise and her work, including her latest Zoom meetings and resources, see our Louise Morse hub.
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