HELPING AND SUPPORTING INDEPENDENCE IN BRISTOL

15th September 2017

viding support and care for people at critical times in life is one of the primary missions of the Church, following Christ's example of meeting people's needs, and in a way, this is also what the neighbours of Bristol Central church do on a daily basis.  The church happens to be next door to 'Supported Independence', an organisation which provides support and residential services to people with various mental health needs and learning disabilities, and on Wednesday 30 August, Bristol Central church was invited along to help at their Community Open Day. 

For years, there had been very little contact between the church and the organisation.  The church was located in the community, but was not really part of the community.  That changed with the arrival of Pastor Royston Smith, Pastor-Smith-and-Service-Userwho actively engaged with the management, built up a friendship and is now a regular visitor and friend to the organisation and its service users.  As part of the good terms the church is now on, they now let the church members use their car park on Sabbath, when the church's car park is full.

The manager, Tracy Richardson had arranged the Community Open Day as a way for the community and the service users to get together, and she invited the Adventist church to come along and support it.  She explained, "We've really worked hard to bridge the gap between the community and the church, and the service users, and bring everyone together.  I think spending time with the service users where it's relaxed, means that it's easy and everyone's comfortable."  The day was also a social time for staff and service users from other units who also came over, and everyone had a chance to mingle, eat and enjoy the atmosphere.  One of the highlights was the revealing of a new wall painting and mural, which had been done by some of the residents.

Speaking after the event, Tracy Richardson went on to explain how the organisation sought to help people develop their life skills such as shopping, laundry and cooking, while helping them with any mental health issues, and keeping in close contact with them, as they hopefully moved on to their own accommodation.

The church contributed to the day in practical ways such as providing health checks for blood pressure and blood sugar levels, which meant that residents and staff alike, could benefit from on the spot health services.  These tests were particularly important for the service users, as many of them would not normally go to a GP's surgery for such tests.  Food-Time-with-Church-in-backgroundIn all, 17 people were seen on the day, 13 of which were service users, and those with higher readings were given advice and encouraged to monitor them.  Both the service users and staff were pleased to receive their personal health scores, and eagerly compared them with each other to see who had the best.

Besides the health checks, the church also helped the event by preparing and bringing along a variety of vegetarian food samples, and fruit tasters, to add to the food already provided.  These went down very well.  They were also once again supported by Evan Green from Newport church, who has been a faithful supporter of Bristol Central church's work.  He brought along his smoothie bike, to make beautiful smoothies for the service users and staff, which were much appreciated.  These activities were delivered by the Bristol Central Health and Community Ministries leader, Mary Philip and her team.  Speaking about the event, Mary commented that "we believe that God will use our efforts to His name, honour and glory."

One of the service users, Lee, really enjoyed the event and commented that "It's lovely, I like to support people in this church."  Lee regularly comes along to the church on Sabbaths, and has also helped out with church outreach activities, such as at the Race for Life event in July, where he came early to help with the setup, and stayed all day, helping with whatever needed doing. 

By continuing to work with Supported Independence and service users like Lee, the church hopes that both will benefit by working together to help those who just need a little help and support.

A selection of photographs are available at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/j6ry3g5ohva89qc/AAD58hYyafxt7p1AtXvaxa43a?dl=0

[Ian Sabadin]


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