The Age-Ability Committee
Connor Age-Ability Committee
The Age-Ability Committee was set up under the Diocese of Connor’s Building for Generations initiative. Its aim is to identify some of the circumstances, problems and opportunities common in older age and bring these to the attention of the leadership in each parish.
A survey by the committee revealed one third of church membership in the diocese of Connor is aged 65 or over. Some of these people are fit, able and willing to contribute actively to church life. Others are older and less able, but still keen to play a role in their parish life, while the older old, who cannot participate in church activities as they may have done before, but who wish to remain an integral part of parish life.
Age-Ability Committee hosts seminar on pastoral care of the terminally ill
Almost 50 clergy and lay people attended a seminar organised by Connor Age-Ability Committee on the pastoral care of the terminally ill.
The half day seminar took place at the Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick on Thursday March 11, and the guest speaker was Dr Max Watson.
Archdeacon Stephen McBride, chair of the Age-Ability Committee, told the packed function room that Dr Watson was uniquely qualified to address both pastoral and medical issues, having trained for the Presbyterian ministry and subsequently as a medical practitioner.
The seminar was entitled ‘Being with the dying. The wounds and privileges of being a professional at the bedside.’ Over two sessions Dr Watson examined, in a most engaging manner, some of the professional, ethical, personal, religious and spiritual issues encountered in ministering to the dying and their families from his perspective as palliative care doctor and cleric.
He told his audience: “Doctors have a difficult task managing illness, but we have a much more difficult task managing spiritual issues surrounding illness.” Dr Watson spoke of the importance of being with the dying person in the last few days and hours and referred to poet Seamus Heaney’s likening of witnessing the death of a loved one to observing a tree falling and leaving new space.
“Spiritual care requires an understanding of the patient’s unique philosophical and religious beliefs and practices,” Dr Watson said. “In other words it begins with listening.”
Using very demonstrative graphics, the speakers showed how you can be with someone without ‘being’ with them. He also addressed the subject of liminal space – that period when a threshold is about to be crossed, when the person is no longer preparing to live, but to die, or when a doctor or cleric is no longer there to help healing, but to ease dying.
Dr Watson trained in theology, medicine, and general practice. He worked in Nepal for eight years setting up a General Practice training programme as an ordained missionary with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. He returned to the UK to complete training in Palliative Care in London and Belfast.
Dr Watson is currently a lecturer in Palliative Medicine in the University of Ulster, Consultant at the Northern Ireland Hospice and Honorary Consultant in Palliative Medicine at the Princess Alice Hospice, in Surrey. He is author of the Oxford Handbook of Palliative Care, Oxford Core text Oncology, The Oxford GP Library Pain and Palliation, London and Belfast Palliative Care Guidelines and is series editor of the Oxford specialist end of life handbooks.
Dr Watson is the originator of the Princess Alice Certificate in Essential Palliative Care which has trained over 5,000 doctors and nurses since it began in 2001 and is now running in Nepal, India, Kyrgystan, as well as three centres across the UK every six months. He has also been involved in men’s work in Ireland and the Men’s Rites of Passage movement begun by Franciscan priest Father Richard Rohr.
The conference attracted a large number of clergy from Connor Diocese, along with others involved in pastoral care to the terminally ill in parishes in the diocese. Members of the Hospital Chaplains Association also attended.
The Age-Ability Committee is one of the strands of the Diocese of Connor’s Building for Generations Strategy.
Members of the Age-Ability committee met in November 2009 to say farewell and thanks to Canon Jim Moore outgoing Chairman, Jeffrey Johnston, outgoing Hon Secretary and Clara Adams who represented the Mothers’ Union. Canon Moore and Mr Johnston were presented with gift vouchers as a token of the appreciation of the committee members and the diocese for all they had contributed over the past years.
The members of the newly formed committee have met twice to look at some future areas which might be explored.
Rev Denise Acheson, Rector of Dunmurry
Mrs Valerie Ash, Mothers’ Union unit co-ordinator for Faith and Policy
Marjorie Beattie is the indoor members’ representative for Connor Mothers’ Union
Dr Roger Cromey is a semi-retired GP and parishioner in Jordanstown
Rev David Lockhart, Rector of Cloughfern
Archdeacon Stephen McBride, Vicar of Antrim
Mr Roy Totten, Glenavy Parish, Diocesan Council, Church Army
Valerie Ash agreed to act as Hon Secretary of the committee which will be chaired by Archdeacon McBride
Areas of Interest
Edinburgh diocese – has a highly developed programme – Faith in Older People - and contact has been re-established with the co-ordinator, Mary Moffett who visited Connor in June 2007.
CB and Sound systems – Antrim Parish has installed a CB system which relays the Sunday services to 40 housebound parishioners. The cost of the system was under £2,000. BT has also developed a digital system by which parishioners can listen to services via their telephone. The use of sound systems, cb systems, loop systems and portable ramps and other such items which can make worship more accessible could be areas to be explored at a half day seminar or a topic for diocesan synod.
Dr Heather Morris – following the most successful half day seminar at the Templeton Hotel in Templepatrick, Heather is to be invited to explore a topic such as ‘caring for the carers.’ We hope to arrange a seminar for either April or October 2010.
The Young old – how do we incorporate the talents and skills of the young, newly retired parishioners. This is an area that many churches and agencies are examining.
Other agencies – there are schemes such as the ‘message in a bottle scheme’ and a borough council donated thermometers to elderly residents. We are arranging to make contact with agencies who specialise in care of the elderly to examine how we can enable them to have a more effective link with those who are elderly throughout the diocese.
“Ageing Minds – Caring Church?” a report which aims to broaden people’s understanding of Dementia.
The Church and Older People – the first in a series of papers from the Age-Ability Committee of the Diocese of Connor was published in 2006.