'Justice, Mercy and Kindness - week 1: The Widow' with Mal Calladine and guests - October 28th 2018

Considering how Christians can support people facing death and grief, with staff and volunteers from Children’s Hospice South West, The Rainbow Centre for Children and Southmead Hospital Chaplaincy.

“The Lord who rules over all said, ‘Exercise true judgment and show brotherhood and compassion to each other. You must not oppress the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, or the poor, nor should anyone secretly plot evil against his fellow human being.’" Zechariah 7:9-10 (NET Bible)

0:00 Introduction

Over the next five weeks, this mini-series on "Justice, Mercy and Kindness" is trying to encapsulate something on God's heart. The widow, the orphan, the foreigner and the poor are people God wants us to keep aware of and not neglect. We are going to look at each group in our society and our city over the next four weeks, there will be signposts to organisations, with opportunities to pray and get involved, and on the fifth week we will make a special offering to the agencies who are working in our communities.

4:36 Who is the widow?

The widow mentioned in the passage was bereaved and also vulnerable because, in that culture, her partner would have been the main provider of support and income.

To learn what this is like, and what we can do to support someone left vulnerable after a loss, we can ask a number of people in our church community who do this as part of their job or ministry.

7:24 Children’s Hospice South West

Natalina Miguel has worked for 12 years at Children’s Hospice South West - https://www.chsw.org.uk. She works with children who are life limited, creating long lasting memories while developing a relationship of trust with families.

One day I’m helping a child sit on a unicorn, another I’m having an ultimate water fight, another day I’m talking to a teenager who wants to discuss his wishes at end of life, another day I’m sat holding the hand of a child that is expected to die within days, another day I’m planning a funeral ensuring that all the parents’ and child’s wishes are fulfilled.
— Natalina Miguel

Natalina said that people fear when death is mentioned, not knowing what to say, but her work involves ongoing contact and support, giving families space to talk with carers and other families who have been on the same journey.

Grief is ongoing. There are changes and stages for sure, but you will forever live with that loss of a child... There are no words. Sitting in silence is a skill that I have learnt.
— Natalina Miguel

Ways people can pray:

  • Pray for the families. Pray for hope, that can remain so absent at this time - that the families will be able to set their eyes on the things that are unseen, as its the unseen that is everlasting.

  • Pray for the strength and emotional wellbeing of the staff.

  • Pray that the community togetherness that happens when people join together to fundraise, volunteer and support remains present.

Ways people can get involved practically:

  • Come to our open days, its open to anyone. This open day offers the public the opportunity to come and view the building whilst being given an insight into how much the children and families value and rely on this service. There’s also the opportunity there to find out ways in which you can support this charity.

  • There's many annual fundraising events. Bubble rush, rainbow and Santa run are a few of the big ones that are usually held around the centre of Bristol.

  • You can personally do fundraising. The hospice have a fabulous fund raising team that can help you with this.

  • There are volunteer opportunities. We so value our volunteers! You can help at event or within the hospice with cooking or housekeeping.

13:46 The Rainbow Centre for Children

Helen Gazzard is a play therapist at The Rainbow Centre for Children, https://rainbowcentre.org.uk, which helps bereaved children and their families. 1 in 29 school children - on average, a child in every class - has been bereaved of a parent or sibling. They have a higher likelihood of serious illness, poor mental health, exclusion from school or a family financial crisis.

The Rainbow Centre's support includes family and individual therapies, workshops and fun days. Creative group work can help families feeling isolated in grief to share with others too. Helen's play therapy can include helping a child to express and deal with angry feelings, perhaps through sword fights, hammering clay or playing with army figures.

Because they are only little, children often don’t have the words. So it’s not necessarily about talking about those feelings, it’s about giving them an opportunity to let them out, and to validate and acknowledge that they have got really big feelings.
— Helen Gazzard

They have recognised that grief affects each person differently, and is not easily managed in linear stages. Instead, they talk about grief in terms of an "upward spiral" of repeated feelings such as anger, sadness and a variety of others.

It’s not about forgetting that person who has died, but about remembering them. We call it ‘continuing bonds’,... special events, special days.
— Helen Gazzard

20:35 Worship at Southmead Hospital Chaplaincy

Rubens and Niura Mazzon are Severn Team Leaders of worship at Southmead Hospital Chaplaincy, https://www.nbt.nhs.uk/patients-carers/coming-hospital/spiritual-pastoral-care. Every two months, they bring patients who would like to attend a service in the chapel which includes music and prayer. They have noticed the presence of God in a way that has made a difference in people's lives.

We try to respond to Jesus’ call (Matthew 25:7), “When I was ill, you visited me,” believing that God would like to make His presence felt and known for people on that stage of life... Many times my heart enlarges for people... it is a journey of growth.
— Rubens Mazzon

Niura also referred to Ecclesiastes 3, where there is "a time to to laugh... cry... mourn... dance" in life. Recognising and engaging deeply with each of those, celebrating life as well as crying when it comes to an end, has been part of what they have learned.

26:40 How do we apply this personally?

In 2 Samuel 9, David asked to remember Saul and Jonathan's family by showing practical kindness to Jonathan's son Mephibosheth, restoring to him land which belonged to Saul and ensuring he always had a place to eat at David's table.

Mephibosheth's response was "What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?" People who have been grieving often share that feeling of "Who am I?", putting themselves down because of their hardship.

God moves to intervene, prompting us to provide love, support and hospitality. Who is God telling us to remember and support?

Small Group questions & discussion starters, for further study & application:

Read back through Zechariah 7:9-10 & 2 Samuel 9 to re-familarise yourselves with the passages referenced on Sunday.

  • What has been your personal experience of loss & bereavement?

  • When you look at the story of David & Mephibosheth, who are you most reminded of?

  • What could you do that either makes more time for that person or responds to their needs?

  • Are there any particular “continuing bonds” that you could more intentionally pursue or encourage? Embracing a marking event or affirming or investing more value in a particular object or interest that affirms that connection?

  • What could it look like to point to the ‘comfort of Jesus’ in their situation? What elements of Jesus’s promises are particularly pertinent for them?

You could then sensitively pray for each other & declare those characteristics of God over the situations you have discussed.