Category Archives: News

‘I’ve been social distancing for 29 years’

How do you make social distancing work? Here’s someone who lives like that all the time. Sister Mary Catharine Perry (pictured) shares some tips for staying home amid coronavirus fears.

For the past 29 years, I’ve chosen to practise social distancing. Of course, I and the 17 other nuns I live with don’t call it that.

We are formally called cloistered sisters, meaning we never leave our walled-off monastery in Summit, New Jersey, except for doctors’ visits or perhaps shopping for a specific item. We don’t go to parties or weddings or out to eat with friends. I often go months without leaving our eight-acre home.

The coronavirus is forcing many people across the world to stay home, limit outside contact — and in a way, start living life like cloistered nuns. As someone who has lived a life of separation, I’d like to share from my experience how you can make the best of it.

First, you need to establish structure.

Create a schedule. At the monastery, we wake up at the same time every day and get fully dressed. We have planned time for prayer, worship, work, eating and fun. Our days usually have a peaceful rhythm. This might take some experimentation – each household is different.

Second, be intentional and love others.

Call other people in your neighbourhood and ask how they are doing, if they need anything. At the monastery, the prayer bell rings and it forces me to stop working and to focus on why I’m really here. The monastery is not an apartment complex. We are an intentional community and it takes work to become one. It takes a deliberate way of life.

Third, use this time for self-reflection and relaxation.

Every day after lunch, my sisters and I take a 90-minute break of ‘profound silence’. We don’t move around the building or talk. We stay still. We read, pray or reflect. Sometimes, we will do a hobby quietly. Sometimes, we nap.

Stop. Be still. You can either waste this period of social-distancing and be frustrated, or you can choose to make it the best it can be.

This is an extract from an opinion piece by Sister Mary Catharine Perry – a cloistered nun with the Dominican nuns in Summit, New Jersey, USA – as told to Cassidy Grom. Copyright NJ Advance Media. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. You can find the original story here.

Richard is champion

It’s far more than dealing with ministers’ housing needs that has equipped Revd Richard Teal as President Elect of the Methodist Conference.

Encountering floods, miners’ strikes, shipyard closures ­- and the aftermath of horrific shootings – have also helped make him uniquely qualified for his latest role.


Richard has just stepped down as a long-serving board member for the Methodist Ministers’ Housing Society, to make room for this new appointment.

MMHS are so proud of Richard’s achievement, they have featured his story on the front cover of the latest edition of their news publication, Roof ‘n’ Roots.

The article points out how Richard made such a mark in his pastoral ministry, one newspaper headlined him as ‘The clergyman who championed Cumbria’.

It was while serving churches in Cumbria that Richard comforted flood victims and, in a separate incident, survivors of one of the worst criminal acts involving firearms in British history.

He was a fledgling minister in his early 20s when Richard found himself in the middle of mine closures and shipyard shutdowns.

Now he is looking forward to becoming President when the Methodist Conference opens at Telford next year.


‘I feel honoured, humbled, privileged and amazed,’ is how he described his response to news of his appointment.

Richard was a board member of MMHS for nine years. Based in London, the Society has been working for more than 70 years to house retired presbyters and deacons.

The Winter 2019 edition of Roof ‘n’ Roots can be downloaded for free here.

Prayer guide leads the search for home

Pray for those longing for a home – such as the UK’s 320,000 homeless people and 69 million displaced souls worldwide. That’s the message of a new resource which raises awareness of housing needs.

Published by the Methodist Ministers’ Housing Society, Octave offers prayers not only for MMHS residents, staff and Board members – but also for carers, homeless people, refugees and housing policy makers.


Available as a free download from the Society’s website, Octave takes the user through eight days of reflection. A limited print edition of this 12-page book was launched at the recent Methodist Conference 2019 in Birmingham.

‘We pray for all those who long to be settled in a place they can call home,’ says Octave. Written by MMHS Board member and resident Revd Glynn Lister, the book is designed by Lindisfarne Scriptorium.

Octave is based on an ancient Christian practice of an eight-day prayer journey. Each day focuses on a different topic, following the same format – a reading, a prayer and an extract from a hymn. ‘Start somewhere and finish somewhere,’ said Glynn. If you get lost in the middle, that’s fine, too.’


He chose the ‘octave’ style as a Christian tradition since earliest times. ‘From the Latin octava (eighth), “octave” is the eighth day after a feast,’ Glynn explained. ‘The word is also applied to the eight-day period of the feast. ‘In those pioneering centuries, octaves were created for Easter, Pentecost, Epiphany, Christmas, saints’ days – and in modern times, the Octave Of Prayer For Christian Unity. Even The Beatles sang Eight Days A Week!’

Glynn approached the project with a simple philosophy – prayer is all about ‘letting your mind wander in the presence of God’. MMHS seeks to meet the housing and housing related needs of retired Methodist ministers of limited means, and their spouses, and their widows and widowers, and to offer support for their wellbeing.

Download Octave for free. Print out your own booklet for church or home use. You can get any or all of the following layouts:

A4 version

A5 version

Double-sided format

(Photo: Clive Price)


Childhood in remote Wales prepared Gwenda Watson for a future life of mission. She went from living in one of the smallest island communities – to helping husband Victor run one of Britain’s biggest Methodist churches.


Gwenda (pictured) shares her story in the Summer edition of Roof ‘n’ Roots – which is not only being distributed among our residents but is also being made available to attendees at this year’s Methodist Conference in Birmingham.

This latest issue of our regular news publication also offers insights into our brand new prayer resource Octave. Board member and MMHS resident Revd Glynn Lister shares his thoughts on prayer – why it’s like opera and how it’s good to get lost in it.

We share an update on our ‘Robocrop’ story about an automated lawnmower, which captured people’s imaginations last year. In addition, there is a discussion-starter about robots in the home by our CEO Mairi Johnstone.


Latest news is published on our first ever residents’ survey, which turned the spotlight on wellbeing and the web. And there is an article about the value of woodland walks for our mental and physical health.

TV presenter Kate Humble has helped create a new video about woodland walks. Gospel blues artist Bryn Haworth has written a song to protect these special places where we can relax and reflect.

Roof ‘n’ Roots is available in print and web formats. Do share our news publication with your friends. Let us know if you ever need additional copies. (Photo: Clive Price)

Love under apartheid

It was an African union that wasn’t allowed, says the lead story in the spring edition of Roof ‘n’ Roots.

Mannie and Lynn (pictured) came from different communities in apartheid-governed South Africa.


Interracial marriages were not allowed those days. So the couple went to England and were married there. Mannie became a Methodist minister.

Now the two of them make their home with us. Mannie and Lynn enjoy peace at their MMHS property in south-west England, where they moved in 2015.

On the edge of a country estate, the house is where they also entertain their two children and two grandchildren. ‘Even though we don’t own the house, it feels like ours,’ said Mannie. ‘It is the family home.’

You can read the rest of their story in the spring edition of Roof ‘n’ Roots, which has just been published and distributed to all our residents. And that’s not all. There’s more!

Read how high praise has come from one of our residents who’s overjoyed with her recent kitchen refurbishment. Margaret Parkes from the West Midlands told us she has been ‘well and truly blessed’ by everyone involved in the project.

Also featured is the story of an ‘astonishing transformation’ that’s brought a 100-year-old Berkshire home into the 21st century. The Society has been improving the two-bedroom semi-detached property over the years. And more recently, we’ve refurbished the bathroom and downstairs cloakroom.


Residents Revd Trevor Allen and wife Ann responded with overwhelmingly positive feedback about their new bathroom. ‘This lovely old property now has a modern feel,’ they said, ‘and we’re very grateful.’

Other items include a profile on actor Jeff Daniels and a reflective piece on the power of photography in preserving memory. For the first time we also have a graphic of our performance record in repairs. Some great spring reading for you! (Photo: Clive Price)

Power to people with chronic illness

Knowledge is power. That’s the message from a new resource for people with chronic illness.

The 48-page guide Living Well With Long Term Health Conditions by Independent Age points out that anyone can have a chronic illness – but as we get older they become more common.


However, the publication looks at how to live well, how to help yourself, where to look for support, and how to get the most out of medical appointments. The charity spoke to older people about their experiences, and included some of their quotes.

‘All the information is there if you want to find it,’ said one interviewee. ‘It’s online, or it’s in a leaflet, or it’s at your doctor’s. It’s there. You just need to be trained to find it.’

However, the guide warns there are so many possible sources of information, it can be overwhelming trying to find what you need, in the right format, at the right time. If in doubt about any details, Independent Age encourage people to check with their healthcare professionals.

The charity also offers online help for finding reliable information on the internet. In addition, the NHS website has a Health A-Z and Medicines A-Z of information, and lets you find and compare NHS services. There are established charities for a number of health conditions.


‘I think it’s really important to ask charities what help they can give you,’ said Dorothy, who suffers from diabetes and glaucoma. ‘I have a volunteer visitor from Independent Age who is lovely company. I’m usually on my own so it’s nice to have someone to chat with. It makes me feel alive!’

The booklet highlights the importance of talking to someone. ‘Living well with a long-term condition is about finding ways to manage conditions rather than cure them,’ said the guide.

Home in on independence

What help do you need to stay independent at home? Do you need to adapt your house or flat to make it more suitable? Do you simply need a hand with the garden?

These important aspects of wellbeing are part of the Society’s work in caring for our residents. We also keep you informed about other useful sources for further help.


Independent Age have published a free guide called Getting Help At Home. This 40-page publication (cover image pictured) offers advice on a range of issues, such as:

  • getting help with household chores;
  • equipment and adaptations;
  • gadgets to make you feel safer;
  • staying connected at home;
  • extra money if you need help to look after yourself;
  • home from hospital help.


Everyone needs different types of help, the book advises. To prove it, a number of people share their experiences through the pages. ‘Housework and going to the laundrette were really taking it out of me because of my angina,’ said one contributor. ‘Now a friendly woman comes four hours a week and finishes jobs that took me three days! My flat is clean as a new pin and even my shirts get ironed.’

Another contributor said, ‘I get dizzy if I stand for too long and it made me anxious about taking a shower. The social services sent an occupational therapist to see me. She was lovely. She arranged for a grab rail to be fitted on the wall of my shower cubicle, and a folding shower seat to the side’.


There’s a range of services, gadgets and equipment from which you might benefit. According to Independent Age, even small changes can make life easier, and you might qualify for some help to pay for what you need.

The guide can be downloaded here. Advice applies to England only. Independent Age have a few suggestions if you are looking for advice specific to other parts of the UK.


New number for gas repairs

A new phone number for all your gas repairs has been issued by British Gas.

0333 202 9797 replaces the existing one for gas call-outs that has featured on our website and in the Tenants’ Handbook. And it remains a 24-hour line.

We have a contract with British Gas to carry out such essential tasks as safety checks and boiler servicing. It is also an unlimited calls contract, so please report any problems directly to British Gas on 0333 202 9797 and they will send an engineer.

According to Ofcom, calls to 03 numbers cost no more than calls to geographic numbers (01 or 02) and must be included in inclusive minutes and discount schemes in the same way. Calls from landlines and mobiles are included in free call packages. (Photo: British Gas)

‘Amazing ministry’ marks 70 years

We look back on ‘an amazing ministry’ that’s been running since 1948. With those words, our CEO Mairi Johnstone launched an eight-page edition of our newsletter Roof ‘n’ Roots.

This special summer issue is part of our 70th anniversary celebrations, and was proudly displayed – alongside some delicious cupcakes – on our exhibition stand at the Methodist Conference at Nottingham University (pictured).


Roof ‘n’ Roots is packed with a whole host of features – from a photostory about ‘RoboCrop’ our automated lawn mower – to an interview with the new Chair of our board Alex Campbell, who’s been described as leading the ‘Pink Floyd’ of brass bands.

There is also a focus on one of our residents Revd William Farrell of Gloucestershire, who is celebrating his 100th birthday during our own anniversary year. Another resident, Revd Barrie Tabraham, reviews the Revised New Jerusalem Bible for us.

Roof ‘n’ Roots also highlights the free resources given to residents and supporters during our birthday year – The Home Blessing Prayer Book and a new suite of worship materials.

We’ve given every MMHS resident a copy of The Home Blessing Prayer Book – the first in a series of prayer books written and illustrated by Mary and Mark Fleeson. Other friends and supporters had the opportunity to take copies from our stand at the Methodist Conference.


The worship materials have been published online and can be downloaded for free from the MMHS website. A limited number of hard copies were available at the Methodist Conference, where they were given to ministers and ordinands searching for service ideas.

While compiling this publication, we discovered there are other organisations celebrating 70th anniversaries just like MMHS – from the NHS to Land Rover. As our CEO pointed out, 1948 was a significant year. You can download Roof ‘n’ Roots direct from our website. Please let us know if you would like printed copies for your church.

Residents’ Survey

Your response to this questionnaire will provide us with vital information as we plan for 2018/19 and beyond.

We are committed to supporting your wellbeing, as much as we can, and we are particularly interested in your mobility and continued independence. We are also interested in your use of computers. There is an important link between both, for example, our ability for us to ‘signpost’ you to useful information and services. We would like to explore this link further.

Please visit the survey page here.