The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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October 2017

PSALM

John Willmer

Project for Seniors and Lifelong Ministry
Taking ageing and faith seriously

PSALM is a small charity, founded in 2004 and based at St. Pancras Church, which provides it with an essential office base for its activities.  PSALM works across London through a small team of Coordinators and additional Associates, and with churches of all denominations.  So far as we are aware, it is the only agency in London to work specifically with churches in relation to issues of spirituality and ageing.  It provides encouragement and advice to churches as they seek to develop their provision for older people.
PSALM also works with or for other agencies, such as Southwark SAGE (the Southwark Diocesan working group on Spirituality and Ageing) and MHA (Methodist Homes Association).  SAGE has been a valuable partner for work in South London.  PSALM has also supported CCOA (Christians on Ageing) in their research project on older people and isolation.

Over the years PSALM has developed a considerable number of workshops of one or more sessions.  These cover a considerable range of issues relevant to older people, both spiritual and practical, and are of varying length from 2 hours to a full day or more than one session.  A catalogue is regularly updated and distributed to churches across London, so that they can use the same approach and host similar events by themselves or with a presentation by one of PSALM’s associates.

A few examples may help to illustrate types of work which PSALM carries out:
In Streatham it is providing training for those involved in an ecumenical venture Streatham Senior Connections.

In Orpington PSALM is working with St. John’s URC to develop resources for churches already or beginning work with older people.

Christ Church, Southgate, has asked PSALM to run a day for older people in the congregation and community as a means of prompting a more thoughtful approach to their ministry to older people.
Holy Trinity, Sloane Square, seeks to develop work with older people and has asked PSALM to work with them in this venture.

A new initiative in 2016, also in Streatham, was the provision of training for vulnerable people at a residential home under the MHA umbrella to provide care for people with terminal illness and long term severe disability.  Some sessions were also provided on health and safety and safeguarding that were also open to volunteers from Streatham Senior Connections.

Gravetalk.   The Church of England’s Gravetalk initiative is encouraging people to talk about death, dying and funerals – questions which we all need to face at some time.  PSALM piloted a Gravetalk initiative with St. Pancras congregation in 2015 and has since undertaken a number of initiatives.  For example a Southwark training session on “Talking about death and dying” was held in October last year and two Gravetalk sessions have been held at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.  Earlier this year (unfortunately clashing with the installation of our new Vicar) a lecture on Talking about Death and Dying was given at St. Pancras Church, following PSALM’s annual general meeting, by the Revd. Dr. David Primrose, notes of which have been sent to HPC’s Pastoral Care Group.  They can be seen on PSALM’s website, www.PSALM.org.uk

Planning for the future.  Funding is a constraint on PSALM’s work and development.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain larger sums by way of external funding, which limits the work that can be undertaken.  The time available by its coordinators and associates is another limiting factor.  Ann Morisy, one of the driving forces of PSALM from the start, has retired as a  coordinator, but is still willing to help at times as an associate.  The future development of PSALM in the light of these difficulties, and possible means of increasing available funds, will be under consideration this autumn.  With the proportion of older people in the population continuing to increase, there can be little doubt of the need for such organisations.
 

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