When we recently heard about Norman and Pat Fuggle’s wonderful ministry among seniors in the retirement village where they live, we asked them to tell us more. Here’s their story…
Six years ago we were in our 7th year of retirement living in Yate. Norman was an elder at Chipping Sodbury Baptist Church with responsibility for Seniors and Pat was leading the prayer ministry when out of the blue we both believed God was calling us to move to a new retirement village near Corsham. With the blessing of the leadership of Chipping Sodbury BC we put our deposit on an apartment at Wadswick Green on April 21st 2015 and moved in on 29th August 2015 and joined Corsham Baptist Church. Little did we know that Corsham BC had prayed at their AGM on April 20th for direction as to how to reach out to the new community being built at Wadswick Green! Good job we were listening to God!
There were only 8 other apartments occupied when we moved in but within a few weeks we met 2 other Christian couples and obtained the agreement of the Manager to set up a Prayer Group. We have met regularly in the main building every Monday morning ever since until Lockdown last March. We then emailed prayer requests to each other until restrictions were lifted when we were able to meet outside in a group of 6 socially distanced during the good weather. On Good Friday we put a cross made of tree branches on our balcony and then on Easter Sunday we decorated it with flowers.
As some of our members became too ill to meet we prayed for reinforcements and we were grateful when God sent more Christians to move in! Currently we are holding our prayer meetings on Zoom. This time last year we started an open meeting for Lent discussions using a booklet from Tear Fund. We had a group of 8 which included 2 from other local churches. Unfortunately we had to curtail the group because of Lockdown but this year we have advertised that it will be on Zoom.
We have been able to organise Carol singing at Christmas with the help of musicians from Corsham BC & last year Norman included a short message. He has also been privileged to take a funeral of one of the residents. When one of the original directors died suddenly we volunteered to lead a Memorial Service in the restaurant at the same time as the funeral was being held in Kenilworth. About 50 residents & staff attended.
We find we are often attending funerals which give us opportunities to witness to family members and staff. We feel that our main role is to make relationships with other residents and their families so we both are involved in groups. Norman set up a men’s group and joined the walking group and Pat attends a Book Club and Zumba. She has also invited some of the women to our apartment to watch DVDs which stimulate discussion. These activities are obviously on hold. Similarly there used to be a weekly supper club in the restaurant and we always made sure we sat with new people to get to know them and make them feel welcome. It’s been amazing to discover links with people who have arrived from many different parts of the country. One example is that three individuals had worked for the same Bank in London as Norman!
Currently we go for walks each day at varying times so that we see different people and are able to encourage them. We have been able to offer to pray for them if they share their needs with us. Some just need a listening ear.
In the Summer our church holds a Summer Party for older people so we have been able to invite some residents to attend this. In 2019 we took 11 residents with us. They were overwhelmed by the welcome and generosity and several started attending one of the services.
We are very aware that there is an urgency to present the gospel to this age group but we feel that we can only sow seeds. Many people have been hurt in the past by churches so our witness has to be consistent. We are also aware that we live in a goldfish bowl and we are watched! We often have comments if Norman goes out in his black suit to take a funeral! Isaiah 61 v1-3 has always been special to our ministry.
In “normal” circumstances our on-site restaurant is open to the public and so we sometimes meet friends from the church there for a meal or coffee and introduce them to some of our neighbours. The Church’s Men’s Group and the Women’s Bible Study Group have both held breakfasts at the restaurant and we have both invited several neighbours to attend these functions with us. This again has encouraged some of them to attend church with us.
We are very grateful to a small group of friends from CBC who pray for us regularly as we seek to reach out.
The village now has approximately 150 residents with the potential to double that number. We feel it was a privilege to move in at the beginning on a building site and gradually see the development not only of the physical buildings but also the community spirit. The advantage of living in a Retirement Village is that we are no longer responsible for the maintenance of our house and garden and therefore have more time to be available for other people. We also made a conscious decision not to fill our time with too many activities. God can use any of us no matter what age or state of health we are in. That was made very clear to us by one of our Prayer Group who died recently. Right up to his death he prayed for and witnessed to his carers and gave a Bible to one of them.
Isaiah 46 v4: Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you