On December 15th, a carol service was held at Holy Trinity church, North Ormesby, which was led by the Revd Jennifer Croft, the Vicar of St Cuthbert’s Church Ormesby. We were blessed by the presence of the Bishop of Whitby, the Rt. Revd. Paul Ferguson; who gave us his blessing. Also, as part of his pilgrimage around the Diocese of York, His Grace the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu called in to greet those who had attended the service.
“Well it is that time of year!“ you might say, but this service was for people living with Dementia and their carers. It was an idea that evolved from an ‘off the cuff remark’ during a “Singing for the Brain” session (supported by the Alzheimer’s Society) some several weeks earlier; which of course, led to a meaningful event that was greatly appreciated and enjoyed by all.
The Revd Jennifer Croft, who delivered the service and is part of the working group, was perfect as she had a good understanding of Dementia. The service was very tactile, visual and interactive, with a memory to take home in the form of a small cross with a prayer and there was an order of service, which also offered a visual reminder of the event. Memories were clear about the story of Jesus as people nodded and smiled at the readings and graphics on the large screen. It was wonderful to see people singing the Christmas carols without the need to read either the screen or the service book!
There was an abundance of helpers who all understood the need to make everyone’s day meaningful and had the skills to do so. There were volunteers who welcomed and greeted people and chatted with them, and they made people feel ‘included’ prior to the service. The organist played traditional carols and people sang spontaneously even before the service started.
‘ASDA Foundation’ offered to be a sponsor for this event and they supplied the food and drink for the festive tea afterwards and a gift of shortbreads to take home. There were several people preparing and serving tea and cakes afterwards. Some wore a traditional frilly white apron which created conversations of the 50’s and of tea rooms that folks frequented!
There was lots of laughter, smiles and contented faces at the end of the day, truly reflecting the spirit of Christmas. This was reinforced by many positive comments, such as:
“We really appreciated it, as it was the only Carol service we will be able to get to this year due to accessibility and crucially, time of day.“
“I could feel the joy you all had in what you were doing and how it reflected onto the people who had come along.”
“I wouldn’t use the word enjoy I would say overwhelmed by love and kindness, thank you for such a wonderful afternoon.”
One gentleman was a little agitated by small children at the rear of the church but when one of the children climbed up on to the chair next to him, he immediately went into a nurturing mode, smiled and made sure the child was OK.
There was a wonderful memory of where the vicar showed a picture of the peaceful Bethlehem with the star above the stable; and she asked what the picture reminded them of, and a little girl came up to the front and called out “Cinderella!” It was lovely!
During the last prayer, we held hands and it was a true picture of comfort and contentment. A wonderful experience for all!
This is the beginning of something beautiful in the diocese with churches working together making sure all significant christian calendar events are covered using varying venues to promote inclusion and equity. It is the beginning of Middlesbrough being a dementia friendly town.