By Sister Regula
What a wonderful invitation of Jesus to his disciples as they come back to him from an exciting and also tiring mission. They need time to share their experience with one another and with Jesus, and also to take some rest, quiet and reflection away from the hustle and bustle of life.
Jesus’ invitation has become the name of a group meeting which I facilitate here in Lewisham. This group started in March 2016 and it is addressed to “those who care for a loved one suffering from ill-health”.
How did it start? Since arriving in England I have worked for 15 years as a Chaplain, first in prison and then about 10 years in a psychiatric hospital. As a chaplain I had a duty of care for patients, staff and families. Most of my time was naturally spent with patients in great need and distress on the wards.
Over the years I became more deeply aware of the needs of the families. Serious illness affects of course the patients first of all, and the care in the hospital is naturally focused on them. However it affects also their families, partners, communities, especially once discharged back home and needing care, be it physical, emotional or mental health care. I also noticed how often faith is an important support and comfort for those who care for a loved one. I discovered that there is a variety of support for carers available, be it information, advocacy, well-being, respite and more. However I could not find much in terms of spiritual support offered in this specific context. That is how the desire to offer a space for spiritual, religious support grew within me. As the community moved to Lewisham in 2014, I grasped this time of new beginnings to launch such a group.
I started, early 2016, by facilitating two sessions called ‘Soundings’, which gave me the opportunity to listen and get a sense of the needs, and also the practical possibilities of those who care for a loved one. I then decided on a monthly 2-hour session late morning from 10.30-12.30. The invitation suggests: ’Come away, pause, be, reflect, pray, listen, share with others the joys and difficulties on this journey of daily caring.’ Two hours is not very long for all this, but it is in the nature of caring that often people cannot get away for very long. Each session has four main parts: first a moment to catch up informally, then a more formal time of listening to each other, as each participant shares something about their experience of the last month: a point that has been difficult, painful, and also something that has given them strength, joy… Those who wish then take a quiet time of reflection, prayer, and those who prefer to continue some sharing stay together. We then all meet at the end for a final simple liturgy.
The participants come from a variety of backgrounds and contexts. The loved ones they care for can be a parent, a partner, a young child, an adult child, or even one or several neighbours. Some live together with the one they care for, others not. Some need 24-hour-care, others need different kinds of care and support. The needs of the participants vary as well. Some enjoy being together, sharing, … others need more space for quiet and reflection. Respect and flexibility to accommodate these various needs is important.
Sometimes the question, the dilemma surfaces, whether it is ok to take time out for me, when the care needs are so great. To be with others who also take time out can be a great support. A place where the question ‘How are you?’ is not only addressed to the patient but to the one who is caring for him or her. Yes, ‘Come away’ and ask each other and ourselves ‘And how are You today?’
Sisters of St Andrew
Comments about the site
Just wanting to say “yes” to this. You will be speaking for, and to, many. I will certainly be passing this on to others, and will contribute some thoughts myself later.
So, I was delighted to see Feral Spirituality make an appearance. I'd think you could find many wanting to join in