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Meetings of importance in the last few years

House of Lords  CCOA: Refreshed & Renewed   11 June 2014

It took a year and a half to prepare for our special event at the House of Lords and it was all over in an hour and half.  But, by common consent, it was time well-spent in both planning and execution.  Around sixty members, friends, and supporters of Christians on Ageing were welcomed to the Cholmondley Room and Terrace by Baroness Barker, a peer who worked for many years at the national charity, Age Concern.  She spoke of the importance of our organisation in bringing together the many voices of older people within the Christian Churches and our rightful place within the debates and discussions about older people’s needs which take place within government, local and national.  Our own Vice-President, Elizabeth Harbottle, gave a moving and robust account of the beginnings of Christian Council on Ageing over thirty years ago,and it was wonderful to hear her speak of the origins of the idea and the first meetings and founding personalities.  As current Chair of Christians on Ageing,  I asked guests to think of the recent developments in the organisation as an unfinished product which they were invited to help finish.  The first steps had been taken, not least the use of a shorter name with a more down-to-earth feel to it: Christians on Ageing, as well as a new website, a new range of publications, a newsletter available free to e-mail subscribers, new developments in the support of people with dementia, and a renewed commitment to the study of ageing issues.  We were unashamedly seeking contacts and supporters in high places to help us with ambitious but achievable aims.

The members of the Executive Committee spoke to as many guests as possible and discovered much willingness to look for ways of co-operating with our work.  One of the successful features of the event was the discovery of real people from other organisations and from within the Churches who will be willing to open doors for Christians on Ageing as we offer our resources more widely.  The overall theme of the event was that we should all be looking for ways to inform each other of what we are doing and seeking ways of working together; hardly startling, but it has not been said before by the people we gathered together.

We were fortunate in having an anonymous donor who gave a sum of money specifically to cover our costs in arranging Afternoon Tea at the Lords.  I express the gratitude of all members for this generosity.

 

Gerry Burke

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Meetings of members of Christians on Ageing were held in Bristol, London and Manchester during March 2014

Summary of the discussions 

Gerry Burke, Chair of Christians on Ageing (CCOA), explained the purpose of inviting members to gather together.  He stressed the importance of having these meetings at this stage in the organisation’s history; it was started in 1982 and has been engaged in a review of how it works over the past three years.  The review is coming to an end.  Changes made as a result of the review so far are based, first, on the recognition of what a small organisation can actually do with limited resources, and that this should be built on three major elements: our presence on the internet; our published material; and our networks of members, friends and supporters.  Practical steps have included:

  • A new website providing information and commentary
  • A revised publications list with fewer but more focused titles
  • A new constitution for governance of our activities
  • A new approach to member and supporter involvement

In the thirty and more years since CCOA was founded, the numbers of people living into older age has increased rapidly and attitudes within society towards being old have changed radically.  Older people do not consider themselves to be just ‘receivers’ but also contributors to the life and progress of the country.  At the same time, as the ability of the country to provide comprehensive welfare support has decreased, new needs have emerged, particularly in long-term care and support for people with various forms of dementia.

CCOA is still needed.  It is the one voice for older people crossing denominational boundaries.  It can speak freely TO all the Churches precisely because it does not speak FOR the Churches.

The meetings asked the Executive Committee to:

  • Really work hard to make the new website a genuine ‘Resource to the Churches’ : highlighting the issues everyone is talking about and offering information and reflection plus links to what others are doing
  • Produce new material for publication on the things that matter to CCOA members: spirituality, including public and private prayer; support for carers, especially those looking after people suffering from dementia; pastoral care at local level, including guidance for those who visit people at home or in care; and commentaries on current topics of interest to all older people, including so-called ‘end of life’ issues
  • Publicise CCOA by letting people know what we are doing and saying: through the website, through a suggested e-mail newsletter, wide and constant mailing of the publicity brochure, and getting access to local church communities
  • Establish meaningful contact with the people in the Churches who actually take decisions, what might be called ‘middle-management’, and find ways to stress the value of our ecumenical ethos
  • Seek ways of improving the Networks so that non-members of CCOA feel connected to our work

The Christian Churches are a vital part of modern society, despite reduced numbers actively taking part in traditional forms of worship.  Christians on Ageing can be a catalyst in reminding the Churches of the role older people have in the proclamation of the gospel.

 

 

 

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