Category Archives: News

Meena promotes meaning of pensions

meena pic 3 - 1Pensions are big news – so they must be important. That’s the conclusion of the Methodist Church’s new pensions team manager Meena Tooray.

MMHS and Meena’s team assist each other where they can in a spirit of mutual support, as they serve retired ministers. When MMHS spoke to Meena about this article, she was compiling the annual Members’ Report.

MAKING AWARE

‘Pensions is a complex subject,’ said Meena. ‘But our people are quite well educated by us.’

Her team send out various communications through the year. They also make sure their contact details are highlighted on their webpage. In an age of costly consultants – and even more costly scammers – accurate information is vital.

‘It’s about making people aware we are here,’ Meena explained, ‘and there’s no charge for talking to us.’

They keep members informed about changes in legislation. That means they rely on members to keep them informed about changes of address. ‘It’s about maintaining communication,’ Meena explained.

Meena looks after the day-to-day operation of the Church’s pensions, which are paid to ministers and lay employees. That includes co-ordinating trustee meetings, ensuring everything runs according to rules and keeping all data up-to-date.

She has more than 20 years’ experience in pensions. A qualified mathematician, Meena joined the industry when banking and finance were respected.

THOROUGHLY ENJOYED

Meena started work in the 80s with no idea what terms like ‘superannuation’s’ meant. ‘I found it really interesting,’ she said. One of her first jobs was based near St Paul’s Cathedral. Her office window gave Meena a bird’s eye view of Prince Charles’ and Lady Diana’s wedding.

Since then, Meena has worked for such corporate giants as Capita and major charity Family Action. At one point she ran no fewer than 13 schemes. ‘I thoroughly enjoyed it,’ said Meena. ‘You have to enjoy what you do. And it’s been very rewarding.’ (This article is the full version of a story that appears in the spring 2017 edition of Roof ‘n’ Roots)

How to cope with a kitchen refit

sharp kitchen 4 - 1Treat it as a holiday. That’s the secret to coping with a kitchen refurbishment, according to a couple of Society residents.

Revd Chris and Deacon Marian Sharp faced a future with a weary, worn-out 1990s kitchen at their MMHS home in East Anglia. Units were tired, surfaces scuffed and a dishwasher leak left a musty smell.

NO STRESS

In addition, a stroke had left Marian disabled. It became difficult for her to make meals with the existing layout. They told the Society about their crumbling kitchen, and found out it was beyond the normal 20-year lifecycle.

‘The Society said they’d help, but we should get an assessment of Marian’s needs,’ said Chris. ‘We’d also have to make a contribution because of our equity share. We were happy with that.’

With guidance from Maintenance Manager Glenn Fry, the Sharps sorted the paperwork, selected a design with kitchen firm Howdens, and chose a contractor. ‘Within six weeks of the initial contact, the fitters were at work,’ said Chris.

The couple set up a makeshift kitchen in their dining area with microwave, kettle and bottled water. They slept at home, but spent afternoons at a nephew’s house nearby. ‘We didn’t find it stressful at all,’ Chris explained.

NO FEAR

The refit took just a week, leaving a new kitchen well in time for Christmas. ‘The contractors were brilliant,’ Chris recalled. ‘They bent over backwards to make sure we weren’t without water or electricity for very long.’

What advice can the Sharps offer to those cautious about the upheaval of a kitchen refurb? After all, the kitchen is more than just a place to prepare food. It’s the centre of a home, where family and friends are fed and entertained.

‘Don’t be afraid,’ said Chris. ‘Everyone is very helpful. Make simple alternative arrangements with your microwave and kettle. Go out for a meal or two. Treat it as a holiday.’

Storm Doris had her day

Doris caused such a storm, residents were still phoning the Society five days after the ‘weather bomb’ hit Britain and Ireland. But MMHS householders appear to have escaped the worst of it.

Shattered fences and broken roof tiles were the reasons why residents across the country called or emailed the Society – after gusts of up to 100mph had struck their homes.

REPAIR FENCES

‘Storm Doris raged up and down the country on the Thursday,’ said Reactive Repairs Co-ordinator Patricia Berry. ‘The next day, householders phoned us with reports of broken fences, asking for advice on what to do next.’

Most calls were about typical damage. Some people discovered they had ‘party fences’, which is not unusual. In such situations the repair costs are shared by owners of properties on both sides of the fence.

‘Some residents lost a few roof tiles here and there,’ said Patricia, ‘but there were no reports of debris causing injury. Some fences may have been getting old anyway, so this is an ideal opportunity to have them replaced.’

No trees came down on MMHS properties, as far as the Society knows. ‘One resident said they would get help to fix fence panels, so the Society wouldn’t have to pay labour,’ Patricia explained. ‘That was very thoughtful. But the main thing is that householders shouldn’t worry about it. It’s within the Society’s remit to repair any damaged fences or roof tiles.’

TAKE ACTION

Weather incidents happen every year, and MMHS respond accordingly. ‘If damage is bad, call a contractor and take appropriate action to make everything safe,’ said Patricia.

‘Then call the office at the earliest opportunity to report the damage and obtain advice on how to proceed. We want to encourage residents we are here to help. If you’re unsure, always ask.’ (Photo: Clive Price)

How to survive a bathroom refurb

It became a friendly neighbourhood joke to ask Joyce Peacock when would she cut the ribbon to celebrate her brand new bathroom.

That’s because Joyce is so delighted with work on her MMHS home near Bournemouth. ‘It’s been beautifully done,’ she said. Joyce had coped with vintage ablutions in her home for some time. Enough was enough – despite the disruption that replacing the bathroom would cause.

GO WITH IT

‘I was hesitant because I’m 84 – and it’s a lot of upheaval,’ she said. ‘But I had to do something about it.’ The Society replaced her retro restroom with an electric shower, low-level tray and screen, toilet, sink with vanity unit, tiling, handrails and safety floor. They also added a basin to a WC.

It was a few weeks’ work. But Joyce found the workmen ‘very nice and very respectful to me’, allaying her fears. ‘They did what they could to minimise the mess,’ she added.

Joyce has some advice to give other MMHS residents who may be reluctant about major works. ‘You need to go with it,’ she said, ‘rather than fretting about how long it’s going to take or how much mess it’s going to make.’

She realised there was a pattern to the project. ‘On the first day or two it’s exciting, and everything moves fast,’ said Joyce. ‘Then you get to the next stage, and you think, “Should I have gone for this?” But at the end of the work, it’s nice. You’re pleased with it.’

KEEP OPTIMISTIC

Joyce encouraged other residents to ‘keep optimistic’ with such refurbishments. ‘For days afterwards, I was going in to the bathroom, looking at it and saying, “Is this really mine?”’

Property Services Director Godfried Addo remembered how Joyce had ‘grave concerns’ about the project. ‘However, she’s now “over the moon” about the resulting improvement and its positive impact on her well being,’ he said.

‘And the property team feel flushed with success!’

Hello and goodbye

board members page 1 - 1Six new members have joined the MMHS Board, as the Society gets ready to meet future demands and opportunities.

WELCOMED MEMBERS

Debbie Faulkner, newly appointed as Chair, welcomed the Board members at the Society’s recent Annual General Meeting. Debbie joined the Board in 2009. Her late father Revd Tony Bullock was a resident of the Society, and her mother Shirley remains so today.

The new members are – Alexander Campbell, Paul Haslam, Catherine Hastings, Revd Glynn Lister, Revd Charles New and Revd Alan Taylor.

Ros Peedle became Vice Chair of the Board. Revd Alan Ashton and Revd Richard Teal were re-appointed for a further year. Revd Jacquie Evans was re-appointed for a further three years.

SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTIONS

In her Chair’s report for the AGM, Debbie acknowledged the significant contributions of the Board members who had stepped down recently – Mrs Ann Brook, Revd Dr John Harrod and Dr John Lander.

You can read the new Board members’ profiles here.

Follow the adventure trail

joy-murphy-for-website-1A thread of adventure runs through the fabric of Roof ‘n’ Roots – the quarterly newsletter of the Methodist Ministers’ Housing Society.

The Winter 2016 edition – out in time for Christmas – features the moving story of MMHS resident Joy Murphy (pictured). Joy, who lives in a Society property at Aylesbury, helps run a humble charity called Karibuni Children – which supports 14 projects for children in poverty in Kenya.

COMMON THREAD

MMHS resident and former chair of the board Revd Pat Billsborrow has written a reflective piece on a life of adventure. ‘Retirement – or “sitting down” – doesn’t mean waiting for the inevitable end,’ she says. ‘It’s full of opportunities if only we’re prepared to look for them.’

A special round-up article Winter? That’s A Wrap! offers plenty of practical advice not only to make the most of the season but also to take up new interests and projects.

‘I’ve noticed there’s a common thread of adventure and trying out new ideas running through this winter edition of Roof ‘n’ Roots,’ said CEO Mairi Johnstone. ‘We all wrote independently of each other – and came up with these similar themes. Why not ask God for something new in 2017? Let’s stay “fresh and green” for as long as we can.’

METHODIST UPBRINGING

The edition also offers some insight into the religious beliefs of George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars saga of films. With the latest of these movies Rogue One now on general release, people are encouraged to look out for any spiritual references to Lucas’ Methodist upbringing.

Roof ‘n’ Roots is sent out to all MMHS residents, but family and friends – and supporting churches – are most welcome to receive a copy, too. Please contact the Society and let us know if you’d like to enjoy this publication on a regular basis.

Keep heat up and bills down

british-gas-engineerEnergy bills can be a big concern. But there are little things you can do to reduce them. Here’s a seven-point checklist for you:

1 Service your heating system – an efficient boiler will save on heating bills. British Gas service boilers for all MMHS residents. You should hear automatically from British Gas. If you haven’t received a service appointment a couple of weeks before your current certificate expires, phone MMHS on 020 7467 5270.

2 Room temperature controls – your thermostat should be set between 18°C and 21°C. By installing thermostatic radiator valves, you can set different temperatures in different rooms. This installation is usually carried out during heating upgrade works by MMHS.

3 Check your radiators – if a radiator is warm at the bottom but cool at the top, that could indicate air in the system. Please let the British Gas engineer know when they service your boiler.

4 Loft insulation – insulating your loft is an effective way to reduce energy waste and lower heating bills. Normally, MMHS properties are insulated. If in doubt, contact your local authority about grants for loft insulation.

5 Letterboxes – check to see if your letterbox is draughty, which can lead to cold hallways and a potential increase in fuel bills. Installing a letterbox draught excluder is an inexpensive and easy DIY job.

6 Windows – energy-efficient glazing keeps your home warmer, allowing less heat to be lost. Double glazing is usually fitted as standard to MMHS properties. If your property lacks double glazing, you may have indicated this in our recent repair and maintenance survey. If you didn’t tell us then, please let us know now.

7 Use curtains to retain heat – it’s important to get as much sunlight into your home during the day as possible. As soon as dusk falls, remember to close curtains to retain heat.

Wrap up your home – as well as your presents – this Christmas!

Plug into peace of mind

electrical-test-2-1You cannot afford to be neutral about electrical safety. That’s the message from the MMHS property team as they launch a major five-year programme of electrical testing of the Society’s 900 properties.

PEACE OF MIND

Homes are always tested before a resident moves in. But MMHS wants to make sure those people continue to enjoy their properties with complete peace of mind.

Electrical testing is a legal requirement in Scotland and Wales, and the Society has inspected most of its properties there. It will soon be mandatory in England, where MMHS has already started testing.

The Society has appointed national contractors Henderson Electrical Services to carry out the inspections over the next five years. HES are approved by the NICEIC, a leading voluntary regulatory body.

Each test takes around four hours. Minor issues like a broken socket or faulty light fitting can be repaired during the inspection. More serious concerns will need a second appointment. A letter explaining the programme has been sent out with the latest edition of the MMHS newsletter Roof ‘n’ Roots. Main points covered in the letter include:

– HES contacts the householder to arrange the engineer’s visit;
– the resident doesn’t have to move any household goods before arrival;
– when the engineer calls, the tenant must check their ID;
– the electrical supply will be switched off for 15 minutes during the test;
– the engineer will write up a full report of their inspection.

ENJOY YOUR HOME

‘MMHS has always ensured electrical installations are safe,’ said Reactive Maintenance Manager Glenn Fry. ‘It’s now become a legal requirement for us to carry out inspections every five years.

‘The benefit for the householder is that they can continue to enjoy their home, knowing their electrical installations are safe.’ An NICEIC guide to electrical testing is available to download here. (Photo: Henderson Electrical Services)

Blessings hit home

Home blessings became a talking point at this year’s Methodist Conference – thanks to a new prayer resource made available exclusively from the MMHS stand.

CELTIC ARTWORK

People visited the Society’s display just to take away their own copy of Pocket Prayers For Home Blessing by Mary Fleeson. Illustrated with striking Celtic-style artwork, the collection offers prayers for every room of the home.

Some ministers said they’d been asked to conduct a ‘blessing service’ in church members’ homes, and had wondered which material to use. They claimed to have found the ideal resource when they saw Pocket Prayers on the MMHS stand.

Another Conference exhibitor took a copy to a friend’s house, and returned the next day to say, ‘It works!’ Their friend had felt much better after using blessings in the collection, which tells the reader, ‘Praying through your home and neighbourhood will make a difference’.

The Society sent copies to ordinands as a gift on their special day. One new minister expressed his thanks on Facebook. ‘It was a joy to receive a card and a blessing from MMHS on my ordination,’ he wrote.

Pocket Prayers was supplied by Lindisfarne Scriptorium, a family business run by Mary Fleeson and husband Mark. Based on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, the couple are inspired in their work by the early Celtic saints.

TIDAL ISLAND

Lindisfarne was key to the Christian faith being spread throughout the North of England in the seventh century. The tidal island was the location of a Celtic – later Benedictine – monastic community.

Brought up in a Methodist home, Mary Fleeson has another link with the Church – she supplied designs for use at the 2010 Conference. ‘We were really chuffed to have been involved,’ she said. ‘It was a real honour.’

Copies of Pocket Prayers For Home Blessing can now be purchased direct from Lindisfarne Scriptorium.

We can be heroes

A dashing young captain who went on the air; finance ‘angels’ who fly to your aid; the amateur gardener who takes us to new heights – it looks like MMHS is all about people with extraordinary abilities. But they’re just some of the subjects covered in the autumn edition of Roof ‘N’ Roots.

WARTIME CAPTAIN

Society resident Revd Eric Blennerhassett shares his story. A former captain in World War II, Eric became a Methodist minister because he wanted to do his bit towards making a better world. He went on to help pioneer religious broadcasting in the UK.

Readers will also find a profile piece on the MMHS finance team – who handle a whole range of money matters for the Society and its residents. ‘We’re here to serve the residents,’ said Financial Services Director Atawa Aryee. ‘Nothing is too hard for us.’

In addition, the MMHS property team give latest news on gas checks and boiler servicing. An arrangement with British Gas has worked out well – so the Society has renewed an existing contract with them. ‘Getting gas checks right is one of the biggest challenges in housing,’ said Reactive Maintenance Manager Glenn Fry.

SOUL MAKING

Society resident Revd Barrie Tabraham writes a reflective piece in our Home Truths series. Barrie’s article focuses on the garden, offering spiritual insights into the ‘vale for soul-making’ where we can rediscover our childlike sense of wonder. There’s even a separate ‘arts and culture’ focus on the most famous superhero. Yes, we found out Clark Kent’s denominational links.

‘I hope you enjoy reading this second edition of our newsletter,’ said CEO Mairi Johnstone. ‘There’s plenty to enlighten, equip and even entertain.’ Householders should have received their print copies already. An online version can be downloaded here. (Photo: Revd Eric Blennerhassett relaxing at his MMHS home)