Lavinia Owen will be known to many of us for her acting skills in many roles with the Southwood Players, but also she has for many years been leading CAMEO our monthly lunch for our more senior neighbours. In addition, she is the coordinator of our Parish Visitors known as the ‘Valley Visitors’.
She recently completed a course organised by Winchester Diocese called The Bishop’s Commission for Mission/Pastoral. This course gives her authority in the Parish recognised by the Bishop to lead pastoral work.
Here are her reflections on the course:
My reflections are going to start at the end, with a question from Phil Dykes, during our last session – “Did you jump or were you pushed?” At the time I went for “pushed”, but, on reflection it was, of course a mixture of both, after all, at my advanced age, one is not “pushed” into anything one doesn’t want to do, and I felt drawn to this Course, when Alex Pease suggested it. My need was to find a Course that gave me more confidence to carry out God’s pastoral work in the Itchen Valley, and all the problems that one might encounter, which are surprisingly many and varied even in such a small community.
About 18 months to 2 years ago I suddenly found myself in the position of trying to re-establish pastoral visiting in the parish. The previous, excellent, team, had been disbanded, and there was a lull in “organized” visiting. It did seem to dovetail with another of my activities – the Cameo lunch for over 65s, where many of the people we visit would be congregating once a month.
I approached the opening day of the course with a certain amount of apprehension – not quite knowing what lay ahead, and was relieved to find that this was the same for most of the people there. It was also apparent that although we would learn much from our speakers, one of the most advantageous sources would be others on the course. Our Launch Day helped us look at Mission – summed up by St. Paul as “to bring salvation to the world”. Of the “Five Marks of Mission”, I know that “Proclaim Boldly” was a stumbling block for me, and yet through our sessions it became easier to do this. I have never been ashamed of being a Christian, but I had always hoped to show this by example not by “shouting it from the rooftops”. However, in my almost weekly sessions of “Al-Anon”, when sharing, I often state that my “Higher Power is God, and always has been – maybe this is a start? “God gives us what we need, but not always what we want” reminded me how important it is to listen when praying, and not always to bombard God with a list of requests. To be still and to listen is sometimes more important, than rushing around and being the “activist” that I usually am.
When we were first put into our groups, I admit having some misgivings. However, throughout the weeks that followed, we formed a really useful and friendly group, and I hope that it helped the others as much as it helped me. It was also good on some evenings to mix up with others from different groups.
One of the main things, with which I was wrestling, was dealing with crises in the absence of our Rector. He is only part-time, and, although we have a great LLM, he works full-time.
The “Listening” sessions were fantastic – one can never do too many sessions on this subject, as one can always improve. It was also incredibly useful to hear about the “wrong” ways of listening, – been there, done that! I think we are all a little scared of silences, but I have learnt that they are important too, and not to fill them in with idle chatter, and to keep oneself out of the discussions. The exercise in threes where one of us observed the listener, taught me masses – mainly, body language and no fidgeting, and also never to go on a visit if you are short of time. Listening is the gift that we give to the person visited, and they must never be rushed. Here we come to another thing I wished to learn more about – how to pray with those we visit? I have prayed for them, and told them so, but am still shy about praying with someone, unless they specifically ask for it
“The practicalities of visiting” – reminded me that one must remember to pray before and after, and make sure that one is in the right place to visit, with not too many issues going on in our own lives, that would detract from the main purpose of the visit. During recent years, and during our Course – I have, at last, realized that I am not “wonder woman”, and that we all need help at times, and to offload some of the problems we encounter. This session lead on well to “Death, Dying and Bereavement” one of my main concerns. I did spend many years as a Community Hospice Volunteer, where the people I visited were all terminally ill, but nothing really prepares you for this. However, David Butler gave us many fascinating ideas on how to deal with this situation, and excellent notes to follow up, – listening, touching, caring and thanking being vital in all such visits. The importance of silence was underlined yet again. David Butler is coming to give a seminar on Death Dying and Bereavement in Itchen Valley Parish on Wednesday evening 15th May at 7.30pm at Southwood House – please do let Lavinia know if you would like to attend.
The evening on “Getting Older” was another highlight for me. – I had had the pleasure on going on one of Erica Roberts’ “Resource and Refresh” Days in Southampton, and her advice on supporting the elderly and lonely in our communities was fantastic, and full of imaginative ways to involve them – food of some sort was always a vital part.
What have I learnt – probably the most important thing is that God is always with us, and that when problems get too big to handle, one must pray and try to hand it over to Him.
I will end with my favourite quotation from Proverbs – “Let kindness and truth never leave you”.
A really useful resource on the course was– Alpha Video No 7 “How Does God guide us”.
If you feel called to attend the Bishops Commission please let me know and we can discuss. Revd. Alex Pease.