Ruth Ranger, our Community Engagement Officer in Chippenham, shares what life has been like for her this year.

As Pilgrims’ Friend Society’s Community Engagement Officer in Chippenham, 2020 has been dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic and all the changes to life that we’ve all had to adjust to.

While working from home is usual for me, I was able to visit the activities run by many churches for older people before the pandemic. I so enjoy meeting people at these activities or events and seeing the valuable role that churches play in their communities, and I had been able to establish helpful connections with many Local Authority groups as well.

Since March, although events have completely stopped, I have been able to continue most other aspects of my community engagement work by using phone and video meetings with established and new contacts, as well as with new churches. I’ve been able to share information and resources by posting materials to them that I would normally give to them in person. 

I have been continuing to source increasing amounts of community support information (especially concerning Covid) which I pass on to about 80 church contacts and leaders now.  Alongside this, Pilgrims’ Friend Society has been producing new resources which I can pass on to the churches as well. 

Lately I have begun phoning round all these churches to see how they are coping with Covid restrictions and whether they need any particular help. This has helped me to identify larger community needs which I can pass on to the Local Authority, so a huge thank you to the churches for all that they are doing to care for their members and neighbourhood during these tricky times.

Churches are devising creative ways to connect with their community, through distributing food to those in need, providing debt counselling, signposting people to appropriate agencies, delivering shopping, taking people to appointments, and providing online and paper devotions/services. They are now turning their thoughts to planning for Christmas with services and social events online, or gifts, cards, and socially distanced visits for example. It’s wonderful!

I have had a few of my hours redeployed each week to do pastoral visiting for the residents at Leonora, especially for those who are new or are having to be in isolation. Seeing things at first hand including having to experience on a small scale the challenges of wearing a mask and other PPE, I am filled with admiration for the loving care and dedication that the Leonora staff give to the residents whatever their role, whether that’s catering, maintenance, cleaning, laundry and admin, as well as the managers and carers. They have been family, friend, comforter, entertainer, nurse and carer to every one of the residents, and so much more. God has blessed us with some amazing people.

Finally, one of the other things I do is share about the work going on to build Middlefields House and our plan to create more space to care for older people in Chippenham. Interest in the home from the churches and Chippenham community appears to be growing as the building grows. People are becoming aware of the variety of resources that it will bring to the town, from the café open to the public, the wonderful residential care for any older person, to the space and support available to church ministry. We pray that it will be seen to be part of God’s rich blessing for this area.

If you'd like to give a financial gift to Leonora Home, you can do so here: Leonora Gift Day Appeal