Fulfilled living in later life
Pilgrim Gardens: A community in pandemic

Monday 7th June 2021

Pilgrim Gardens: A community in pandemic

Mandy Smith, Scheme Manager at Pilgrim Gardens, Leicester, looks back at how the community have been supporting each other over the past year

A community bereft

As the news of the pandemic became known to us back in March 2020, there were mixed feelings about what this would mean for us as a community. Some of our number were given the immediate instruction to ‘shield’, some were uncertain of what they needed to do, and some adamant that this wasn’t going to affect them.

Whatever our initial reaction, the pandemic certainly has had a huge impact on us as a community. It seemed that overnight we stopped. We stopped our devotions together, our afternoon tea and fellowship, our singing, our exercise class, our games afternoons, our visitors. With so many things restricted, we started to look at the possibilities – what could we do?

A community blessed

We always had a lot of support from the local churches, and as we had lost so much through the pandemic, some of these local supporters contacted me asking if there was any way in which they could help. After some discussion, we set up some open-air prayer and praise sessions. These were such a blessing. Local church leaders brought their musical families with them to lead us in praise, and the Word of God. As we were also very blessed by the weather, we would finish these services with ice-cream. I remember one day that we had set aside to spend worshipping God outside. I invited three speakers to speak to us throughout the day. At the end of the third session, the Aaronic Blessing was sung over us. God’s presence and favour was tangible. One said that he, “felt God fill the space above us like the shekinah glory”. Many of our number commented afterwards of how God had truly ministered to them.

Pilgrims Friend Pilgrim Gardens ice cream
Pilgrims Friend Pilgrim Gardens Prayer Day 2

A community in prayer

We continued throughout most of 2020 without any Covid-19 cases, and then one of our number caught it in the hospital in December. This brought a great challenge to us, as we could not visit and bring back news for prayer. In January 2021, two more caught the virus, Ralph and Maureen – Ralph became particularly poorly with it, in his words, “my speech was slurred, my face was red, I was close to death, as I found out later”. News of them was sparse. As a community we were anxious for them and we missed them, but we learnt to pray with little information, trusting them into God’s great care. God’s care is indeed great and all three are now able to tell their own story; albeit at a distance of six feet outdoors or over the telephone.

A community prepared

There did not seem to be any routine in who the vaccinations were offered to, when or why. This caused an amount of frustration and fear as some were being chased up for the vaccine when others were asked to wait. In early January, I received an email from the surgery asking if they could set up a clinic at Pilgrim Gardens to vaccinate those not yet vaccinated. There was a great sense of celebration on that day in late January when 25 of our number received their first vaccine. With the easing of the restrictions, many are now asking if we can have devotions again, if we can fellowship together again over a cup of tea, if we can sing in the sunshine again. Although it is tempting to say, “let’s pick up community again” I really understand that community never stopped here at Pilgrim Gardens, it just changed to encompass the changing situation around us.

Pilgrims Friend Pilgrim Gardens vaccination

This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 edition of The Pilgrims' Magazine.