Category Archives: News

Our Richard becomes President

Former MMHS board member Revd Richard Teal has been elected and inducted as the new President of the Methodist Conference.

Richard’s induction took place on 27th June at Cliff College in Derbyshire, as part of the Methodist Conference – which is taking place online for the first time.

Richard was a member of the Society’s board for nine years before leaving MMHS to take on his prestigious new role.

HIT HARD

In his Conference address, Richard pointed out how the Church had been ‘hit hard’ by the coronavirus crisis.

‘Who would ever have thought a few months ago we would have had to close our doors and lock them, even at Easter!’ he said. ‘Many of our congregations are feeling totally disorientated, fearful and cut off from the fellowship we enjoy with each other.’

Richard also looked ahead at how the world can adapt to the impact of the pandemic – ‘Not a return to the same old same old but a church which has the reputation for transformation, for recreation and for empowerment of what we are living through in the present – in response to a faithful God who redeems history and promises the brightest of futures’.

GOD WITH US

He chose the final words of John Wesley as his theme for this year – ’The best of all is, God is with us’.

Richard comes from a farming background, having grown up in the Yorkshire Dales. He has spent most of his ministry in rural areas, including 11 years as Chair of the Cumbria District. He is now Superintendent of the Beverley Circuit in East Yorkshire.

Text and video of the presidential address is available here. Richard’s story can be read in Roof ‘n’ Roots here.

‘I’m so glad you are there’

Residents have expressed overwhelming support for the way the MMHS team has been weathering the Coronavirus storm.

Retired ministers have offered heart-warming comments since CEO Mairi Johnstone sent them a personal letter on 20th March.

POSITIVE FEEDBACK

One resident calling about storm damage, expected to hear an answerphone message. Instead, she spoke directly to Executive Assistant Rachel Dawson. ‘She was so glad we were still there,’ said Rachel. ‘We’ve had a lot of positive feedback about still being available on all the usual communication channels.’

Another householder said, ‘We feel for you and the team, when there are so many personal hopes and needs to attend to, in such unprecedented times’.

Some callers have expressed concern for staff comfort and safety. ‘This must be as challenging a time for you – as it is for us,’ said one resident. Maintenance and Repair Officer Patricia Berry received a message saying, ‘Thank you for your letter – and for continuing to work from home on the residents’ behalf’.

Mairi’s correspondence had announced that all MMHS staff would be working from home, in compliance with the UK Government’s Covid-19 measures. That meant setting up each team member with a computer and phone, directly linked to the Society’s office. Staff work at a variety of locations – from a corner of a living room to a shed in the garden – from London’s East End to Ireland’s east coast. They hold daily meetings via Zoom conference software (as pictured in library photo).

‘It’s led to considerable change,’ said Mairi, ‘but our aim was – and still is – to deliver the high levels of service that residents rightly expect.’ Mairi’s letter pointed out that for the foreseeable future, repair and maintenance works that are not essential should be delayed.

GOOD WISHES

However, issues that directly impact health, safety and security – such as a leaking pipe or faulty boiler – would be considered essential. Mairi assured residents their wellbeing ‘remains at the forefront of everything we do’.

The thoughts and prayers of many residents have been a great encouragement to Society workers. ‘We’ve felt very cared for,’ said Rachel.

‘Our staff team are really grateful for the good wishes we have received,’ said Mairi. ‘They are very much reciprocated.’

Cool to be kind

Be kind, get connected and do some colouring – those are just some of the practical things-to-do for Mental Health Awareness Week.

We looked at some of the messages shared by various agencies for the week (18th-24th May). We found a variety of resources on common themes.

FOCUS ON KINDNESS

Unusually, the Methodist Church’s own wellbeing resources include an adult colouring book. For relaxation or devotions, Slow Journeys In The Same Direction has been created by Geoffrey Baines, an Associate Chaplain at the University of Edinburgh. The idea has academic backing – researchers have found that daily colouring can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Grandparents may be interested to know the Church’s resources also feature mental health cards for children and young people. The cards provide tips on how to stay mentally healthy – and information on where to get help.

The Mental Health Foundation are focusing the week on kindness as a response to the Coronavirus outbreak. The foundation have found from their research that kindness and mental health are ‘deeply connected’. Chief Executive Mark Rowland said, ‘The research shows kindness is an antidote to isolation’.

Echoing that sentiment, the charity Mind encourage people to #SpeakYourMind. They want us to share positive messages with those who need a friend – so they don’t have to face this pandemic alone. Mind’s recent survey of more than 10,000 people showed connecting online with family and friends is one of the most common coping strategies many are using during these times.

POWERFUL VOICE

Rethink are pushing for wider community support for those experiencing severe mental illness. ‘The future of mental health care is community-based and locally focused,’ said Rethink. The organisation encourages us all to create caring communities by – sharing our own experience of mental illness, signing petitions, writing to our MPs, checking in on our neighbours and responding to others with kindness.

‘Your voice can be powerful,’ said Rethink.

The forgotten frontline

We hear of the Coronavirus crisis in hospitals, not care homes. The ‘second frontline’ of the Covid-19 war slips quietly under the radar. Our friends at Methodist Homes (MHA) are battling hard to change that.

They’ve launched a petition calling for ‘correct and necessary’ PPE in the care sector. Methodist Homes is the nation’s biggest charitable provider, but they’re not campaigning just for themselves. It’s for everyone in their sector.

CONSTANTLY ORDERING

MHA want as many people as possible to join them to put pressure on the Government and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. They want to ensure all carers are equipped with the tools they need to safely do their job.

PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment. In care homes that means care workers need face masks, eye protection, aprons and gloves. In nursing homes, it also means wearing full gowns just like hospital staff. Being such a big network – with more than 4,000 older people living in their homes – MHA are constantly ordering supplies. And if one home runs out of PPE, they can shift stock around to help.

The price is high. According to PR Manager Theresa Knight, MHA recently had to buy fresh stocks of face masks. These protectors usually cost 20p per unit. For this latest order, MHA had to fork out £1 per mask. If that’s the pressure on a large care provider, what are the stresses on smaller agencies?

MHA Chief Executive Sam Monaghan has been promoting the needs of care homes across the national media. He has appeared on BBC, LBC, ITN and been written about in The Guardian and The Observer.

PROMOTING PETITION

Care manager Julie Roche also spoke of her experiences on The Guardian podcast, Today in Focus. Her MHA home Westbury Grange was full of ‘music and dancing’ until Covid-19 ripped through the facility and took 13 lives. Julie is a nurse, so she respects her NHS colleagues. But she feels older people in care homes are ‘almost written off’. It’s a risky time for care workers. Yet still they see offering end-of-life care as ‘an absolute privilege’.

MHA has been looking after older people since before the creation of the Welfare State. They started about five years before MMHS. We have a shared history, and we’re promoting their petition. (Photo: MHA)

How to connect in a crisis

Lockdown loneliness has attracted a crowd of helpers – including churches, charities and a Government secretary.

The Methodist Church is alerting members to the fact that while their buildings may be closed, many congregations offer phone pastoral care and an online worship experience. The Methodist Church also offers worship sheets to use at home.

CHATTY RADIO

Examples of online help include – Methodist Central Hall via YouTube, Thornton Methodist Church, Lancashire offering phone calls, social media presence and service materials and Wesley’s Chapel live streaming services.

Mental health support group Mind have published a list of practical ways to connect with people during the Coronavirus crisis. They recommend keeping in touch digitally with video chats, phone calls, messages or texts.

Mind suggest putting extra pictures up of those we care about can be a reminder of the people in our lives. Listening to a chatty radio station or podcast can help if our homes feel too quiet. Connecting with others in similar situations can also be achieved through online peer support communities like Elefriends, where people can share their experiences and hear from others.

The Government have launched a campaign to tackle loneliness and social isolation. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced loneliness as a ‘priority category’ of a £750 million charity-funding package. The aim of #Let’sTalkLoneliness is to get people talking openly about this issue. Useful tips and advice are shared, such as – joining a club or group online, and volunteering to support others in a similar position.

SOCIALLY CONNECTED

This campaign has been welcomed by Deborah Alsina, Chief Executive of Independent Age and Chair of the Campaign to End Loneliness. ‘Even before Covid-19, millions of people were experiencing loneliness,’ she said. ‘The lockdown, while necessary, has exacerbated this problem, particularly for older people.’

Three out of four over-65s feel contact with family or friends has been significantly limited, said an Independent Age survey. ‘Loneliness cannot be considered a second-tier issue during this crisis,’ Deborah added. ‘By working together, we can help ensure more people are staying physically distant, but socially connected during the lockdown.’ (Photo: Independent Age)

New handbook is leaner and greener

Everything from rabbits to refurbishments, ponds to plumbing, gullies to gas boilers – it’s all covered in the plastic-free, eco-friendly version of the MMHS Residents’ Handbook.

Well known among the Society’s residents, the Handbook used to be a heavy plastic manual weighed down by laminated pages and complex graphics.

FREE DOWNLOAD

It has now been totally revised and refined – and is available as a free download from the MMHS website. Residents without online access can request a paper copy.

The Handbook remains essential reference material for residents, who can find out what to do about pets, how to report emergency repairs, contacting contractors – and much, much more.

For instance, did you know if repair work costs under £100 you can authorise a contractor to carry out the work immediately? MMHS will reimburse you on submission of a receipt.

And do you know where essential services are located around your home and how to isolate them – in the event of an emergency? If not, there’s a handy checklist for you.

In addition, there is a whole page of important phone numbers, ten indexed sections covering a vast range of vital household matters, and a ready-to-use maintenance log.

ESSENTIAL INFO

The Handbook points out that while the Society looks after big structural issues from roofs to floorboards, the resident is responsible for items like sheds and shelving.

Guidance is as comprehensive as ever – but on fewer pages. Our property and operations teams worked hard to reduce the publication from a whopping 77 pages to a more accessible 26 pages.

‘Our revised new Handbook covers MMHS services, your rights and your responsibilities,’ said CEO Mairi Johnstone. ‘It’s essential information for our ministerial residents.

‘The plastic Handbook is now a thing of the past. The present and the future are looking greener.’ You can obtain your free copy here.

‘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.

LONG-SERVING

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.

RESPONSE TO NEWS

‘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.

LIMITED EDITION

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.’

WELLBEING SUPPORT

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)

ISLAND GIRL IS MADE FOR MISSION

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’S STORY

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.

WOODLAND WALKS

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)