Trish Calvert explores the story of the Church of the Good Shepherd in the Shrewsbury Methodist Circuit and their desire to serve the mission and ministry needs of housebound older people, ‘congregating in a new way’.
In 2006 the Shrewsbury Methodist Circuit birthed a new network church called the Church of the Good Shepherd, aimed at older people. The vision centred on addressing the needs of a growing number of elderly and housebound people. I was employed as the Circuit Pastoral Worker to housebound people for two days a week. The aim of this ministry was to offer prayer, comfort and spiritual support in addition to that given by pastoral leaders, and to take the church into the homes of members who were no longer able to attend church. Opportunity to receive 'extended holy communion' was to be an important part of this ministry.
Several months were spent, simply visiting and getting to know new people. Listening to them and discerning their needs was a vital part of this process, together with letting them get to know me. The giving of prayerful support and encouragement was all part of building relationships within the network of the Church of the Good Shepherd.
Within the first year a quarterly service of extended holy communion was offered to everyone who wanted it, in their own home (most people who live in residential accommodation already have the opportunity to receive communion from local ministers). I make a point of giving special attention to the detail of extended communion. We produced specially printed service booklets containing a message from the Superintendent Minister, a starched lace cloth, a cross and a proper communion set. All serve to make this a special occasion.
The introduction of hymns and carols (using CDs and a portable player) to begin and end the service has also been enthusiastically received. On these occasions, I can often bring together small groups of friends, family, neighbours and pastoral visitors who all add to the fellowship of the occasion.
During the first year, special prayer cards were made and circulated to all the housebound members. These contained topics for prayer as well as a specially written prayer based on words from John 10. This prayer is often incorporated into our extended communion services.
During the second year, I introduced a quarterly newsletter to help keep the members in touch and informed. It is called 'the Flock' and members contribute short articles and testimonies about themselves and their experiences on a regular basis. We also share special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.
Through the information contained in the newsletters we have enabled many of the housebound to participate in other Methodist circuit events such as a 'Pray without Ceasing' event and a week of prayer. I am always looking for ways we can include the housebound in the life of the local church.
The housebound members are also encouraged by me to use the Methodist Prayer Handbook which they can order through me. This is also one of my most used resources when visiting.
For the future, we are planning a special one-day event during the summer, to which we shall invite the more able and mobile of our elderly members. It will be a day of fun, fellowship and entertainment, in a lovely venue with all meals provided, and an opportunity for church fellowships to be involved in supporting this day.