Fulfilled living in later life

Tuesday 7th September 2021

Hymns We Love

Faith in Later Life Ambassador Pippa Cramer tells how a hymn-based ministry to older people at her church helped to inspire the Daily Hope, the free phone line which has offered spiritual comfort to many during the pandemic

Pilgrims Friend Pippa Cramer Award

Pippa has long had a heart for older people. As an Occupational Therapist, she specialised in Neurorehabilitation and Care of the Elderly within the NHS. She is now the Pastoral Care and Seniors Minister at Holy Trinity Claygate, Surrey, and has been running Connections, one of the largest church-based groups for seniors in the UK, for the last 10 years.

Pippa longed to take older people on in their faith and considered how hymns could provide a way in to sharing the gospel. “This is a generation that has grown up singing hymns – the words and tunes are almost a part of their DNA,” she says. “I thought hymns could provide a lovely, gentle, accessible way in.”

And so, after much prayer, Hymns We Love was born, a series of talks focusing on a different well-loved hymns. At the start of session, the hymn is played and sung. Then follows a short talk written by Pippa’s husband Steve Cramer exploring the history of the hymn and its writer, and the meaning behind the words. The hymn is then sung again, there is a prayer and then the opportunity to take part in a small group discussion.

By 2019, an average of 60 older people were attending the talk at Connections each week. “It was wonderful to see how God was at work at Claygate,” says Pippa. “At the same time, I felt overwhelmed by a burden for all the lonely, older people across the UK who weren’t being reached.”

In January 2020, she spent a few days away by herself, fasting and praying. “I found myself just crying for all those older people who are completely isolated who don’t yet know the Lord. I asked God to show me a way to reach them,” she says.

And then the pandemic hit. All face-to-face gatherings came to an abrupt end. Like many churches, the Connections team found themselves looking after older people in new ways, developing a ‘Cascade of Care’ to support those in their community.

In the midst of the crisis, an opportunity to reach older people more widely presented itself. “I was conscious that many older people are not online, but everyone has a telephone,” says Pippa. “So, how about a phone line that older people could call for spiritual support?” After discussions with the Evangelism and Witness Team at Lambeth Palace, the Daily Hope, a free phone line, was set up, supported by the Church of England and Faith in Later Life (the sister charity of Pilgrims’ Friend Society). Available 24-hours a day, the Daily Hope offers a selection of hymns, reflections and prayers, as well as Church of England services. The first option takes you to a recording from Hymns We Love. The response has been overwhelming – to date the Daily Hope has received approaching 500,000 calls.

“So many people have said that the Daily Hope has been a lifeline to them,” says Pippa. “We are delighted to say that we have received funding so that the Daily Hope can continue to support all those who are older or unable to attend church.” In recognition of her work during the pandemic, Pippa was awarded the Alphege Award for Evangelism and Witness from the Church of England. In his citation, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby expressed the desire for Connections and Hymns We Love to be replicated in all churches in the UK. Pippa longs for this to be a reality.

“The pandemic has definitely opened people’s eyes to the many lonely, isolated older people around us,” she says. If you are eager to share the gospel with older people, Pippa advises starting small, praying about it with one or two like-minded people. A first step could then be running a Hymns We Love series. The texts from the first five talks are available online (see below). You could provide live music with an organ or a piano, but singing along to a recording can work just as well.

“This generation who have grown up singing and knowing these wonderful hymns won’t be here forever,” says Pippa. “Right now, we have a unique opportunity. So, please join me in praying – this is the key of course!”

Hymns We Love - talks

The first 5 talks from the Hymns We Love series are available on the Faith in Later Life website here

The recordings are available on the Holy Trinity Claygate website here

Find out more about ways to reach older people through resources and prayer

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Our resources cover issues of older age, including books and tools to support older people and those ministering to them.

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