Caring and Christianity: A Personal Account
Serenity Underhill kindly provided this account of her time in Teddington Parish.
“A year ago I arrived in Teddington and met Cyril and Jennifer. As a live-in carer I pride myself in making sure all of my clients’ needs are met, but I had no idea that my role in their lives would be to support their spirituality in a way that I would rediscover my own!
I read their care plan with some trepidation, and learned that I was expected to ensure they attended Sunday church services as often as possible. I’d not attended church for years, except for the odd family wedding. I was uncertain I would know what to do, where to sit or when to stand. Despite being christened I no longer considered myself to be a
Christian, and viewed this part of my care role as an obligation, and a bit of a chore.
Getting Cyril and Jennifer up, washed, dressed and fed in time to leave for 2 different church services made an early
start earlier and a long day longer. As I pushed the wheelchair up the path through the churchyard I was already
anxious and frazzled. Jennifer was sleepy and not responding much. We went into the church and were greeted with smiles.
It was evident immediately that Jennifer was much loved. We were directed to a space reserved for us at the front, (oh no! How will I know when to stand up and sit down?) where I sat nervously waiting for the service to begin and distracted myself by attending to how Jennifer was doing.
She was smiling: a sense of calm had come over her, her eyes were bright, open and alert. The service began, and when the choir joined in a palpable sense of peace came over her.
While supporting Jennifer and Cyril to remain as active as possible in the church, I came to appreciate the sense of
community and belonging that comes with active participation in worship. What began as an obligation has evolved into a joy. Being a part of the enrichment and pleasure that Jennifer and Cyril get from attending communion services, seeing old friends, and going to Memory Cafe would be reward enough, but the duty to support someone else’s spirituality gave me pause to reflect upon my own.
I reflected on this sense of peace with increasing frequency as I spent more time with the church family of which I
inadvertently found myself a member. Each service would see us sitting in the same place, but as time passed I felt more and more comfortable with my own place as a member of the congregation. I learned when to stand up and sit, sang and joined in with the prayers, began receiving blessings when Jennifer received communion, and slowly but surely the peace that I sensed in Jennifer crept into my own heart.
I am leaving Teddington now, but while St Wilfred’s in Standish has a new congregation member, I will take the
friendship and peace I have found here with me. I will always be especially grateful to Jennifer and Cyril for inspiring me to take a step in faith, and to all the other members of St Mary with St Alban who have been so friendly and encouraging to me.”