The Memory Café
Many people think of the suburbs as being a quiet place, where everything is rosy and happy, but for many areas in outer-London, there are just as many problems, as there are in the inner-city. In north Wembley, one such issue is that of loneliness amongst the elderly population, where people have retired, survived loved ones who have died, or have no family living nearby. The loneliness often results in memory loss and confusion, which exacerbates the issue.
However, St Cuthbert’s north Wembley is doing its bit to combat this issue that can blight the lives of many people in older age. More than 18 months ago, the Revd Steve Morris arrived to be the new incumbent of this 1959 church in the heart of the Borough of Brent. He immediately took charge and instigated a number of changes making the parish church the centre of the community.
As well as opening the church every day he helped create a Memory Café. With local volunteers, people do memory exercises in a friendly atmosphere, creating a connection with neighbours and banishing the loneliness of old age.
From day one, back in September 2015, more than 20 adults arrived at the church for the Café. As the film below shows, it helped elderly people from different backgrounds and faiths, come together, in the body of the church, to share companionship, reuse their minds and improve their health, through chair aerobics and healthy eating projects. Since then, the numbers attending have continued to grow, through leaflets, the local press and word-of-mouth.
The Alzheimer’s Society provides its caseworker Adrian, who leads the sessions beautifully, while people from all sections of the community come and support the church. With the help of a Near Neighbours grant, the café has gone from strength to strength.
The warmth of welcome to anyone who steps through the door is striking with the comfortable and friendly hubbub. Everyone is given a sticky label with their name on to wear, and with a cup of tea, people can chat with anyone and everyone, without focusing on ethnicity or faith. Membership of the café reflects the local community, with Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and atheists attending. There is also diversity amongst those who identify as ‘Christian’, with Catholics as well as Anglicans actively involved.
This very much reflects Steve Morris’ own idea of seeing himself as ‘priest to the whole parish’. He suggests:
“I’m the priest for everyone in the parish, not just the Christians. My job is to express God’s love for people – with no strings attached.”
In future, the church hopes to follow with a bereavement group, so it can respond to the needs of the community. By opening the building and creating the Memory Café, the church has been able to create a real presence in the community and has grown with more people worshipping every Sunday.