Anna Stuart
The story of Elderberries

It all started when Martin Charlesworth gave a sermon at our church – King’s Church in Kingston. Incredibly, a whole ministry to older people grew out of this one talk.

Martin’s sermon talked about the importance of reaching out to the vulnerable and lonely in our communities, especially the elderly. He said that in the coming years social care would very likely let these people down as already there was a shortfall in funding, and that churches would need to step in. I felt God clearly speak to me, saying that he wanted an older people’s group in the Kingston area and that I was to lead it and he would show me exactly what we had to do. I stepped out in faith and promised I would do what God asked of me.

For months, I worked passionately on making God’s vision for the elderly a reality. I found out how loneliness in the elderly was as dangerous to their health as cigarette smoking, about the concept of Social Prescribing where social groups can be used to alleviate loneliness through coming together in community, and about the importance of inter-generational friendships and Pets as Therapy dogs. I realised as I carried out my research that God was giving me superhuman amounts of energy to keep going and get his work done. He also put people in my way that would bring together the vision to make it a reality.

Elderberries logoTalks and fundraising events were organised and God equipped us with everything we needed. This meant that we were able to organise a team of volunteers, get funding from the church, find a venue and get a council grant, all in a very short space of time. In January 2019 we had our first session and Elderberries was born!

From that first session, we have steadily increased in numbers and we have had all sorts of exciting talks and outings. We have had talks on topics as diverse as massage, crafts, goal setting, volunteering, happiness, trips to the Amazon, human longevity and singing. We have even had a United Nations ambassador to speak! We have had trips to Wisley gardens and various cafés and pub lunches, and will soon be having our first Christmas meal, with everyone paid for from our council grant.

It is never boring at Elderberries and we are bringing together people from diverse backgrounds into a supportive and loving group where they can learn of God’s love for them first hand. In our last talk we discussed what practical steps we could take to make our group happier and healthier. Some ideas we came up with were to start a walking group, learn about healthy eating and connect with each other by way of a phone list so we could call on the others when in need.

Our group has grown stronger and more caring over the months and everyone who joins the groups comments on how friendly it is. Numbers of participants and volunteers are being added to all the time. It feels like God is blessing us for being faithful and it has been a privilege to work with this family of people who give us so much joy.

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