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Higher priority for the elderly

27 March 2015

Ann Morisy  welcomes resources that help to plug a C of E gap

Creative Ideas for Ministry with the Aged
Sue Pickering
Canterbury Press £24.99 (including CD ROM)
Church Times Bookshop £22.50

THE title made me wince. We don't often use the label "the aged" these days. There is, however, no better descriptor for what this book aims to do - and achieves. Sue Pickering, a chaplain working with the retirement community in New Plymouth in New Zealand, has compiled her insights and resource material in a most generous and competent manner. In this substantial volume you will find ideas and encouragement that, until now, have been available only haphazardly in Britain.

While the focus is on ministry to frail older people, there are sections such as "Accompanying the Dying" and "Spiritual Conversations" which are relevant to ministry across age groups. Likewise, the material is relevant to both lay and priestly ministry. Pickering bestows a gift to all those who exercise pastoral care. What she offers is down to earth and full of hard-won insights, besides presenting a challenge to those inclined to ascribe low priority to ministry to "the aged". In perusing these pages, one uncovers the magnitude and import of ministry to those whom our society is inclined to disregard.

It is not a book to be read from beginning to end. This is a book of resources which offers exceptional riches, so detailed that the author almost holds your hand as you venture into the nursing home or to the bedside of the dying. The book also comes with a CD ROM (it worked first time!) that provides thorough notes for leaders, services for all the church seasons, including service sheets (as single pages and "spreads"), all the workbooks and the material for reflective conversations - in fact, everything that is on the closely packed pages is present on the CD. Support for the task couldn't be made easier or more helpful. What Pickering provides is both comprehensive and meticulous. As a result, this book and CD ROM are guaranteed to become a well-used and much loved resource, reached for to aid "last-minute" preparation, as well as spurring the imagination to produce one's own material.

With the exception of Methodist Homes, chaplains in care homes are thin on the ground. Given the availability of the material that Pickering has compiled, it will be possible to create a foundation for recruitment and training of such specialists. The Church of England has some catching up to do in the development of work with older people, and needs to lean on the experience of the Methodist Church and Anglicans in Australia and New Zealand, where such ministry has always been a priority.

Having given exceptional praise for this book, I have a gripe that I direct to the publishers. This volume is part of the Creative Ideas Series that has been launched by Canterbury Press. Little flair, however, seems to have been brought to the design and layout of the material. This means that the structure and rich detail of what is on offer can take some discerning; but it certainly repays the effort.

Ann Morisy is an associate of PSALM, an organisation that encourages churches in London to take seriously the positive contribution of faith to later life.

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