BIRTHDAY banners and balloons adorned the library at Southwark Cathedral in celebration of 30 years of Being Alongside / the Association for Pastoral Care in Mental Health.
From three o’clock there was a gentle gathering of about 40 friends old and new over tea-time sweets and savouries. Pride of place were not one but two birthday cakes (one of which was gluten-free) baked for the occasion, decorated with the charity’s logo. The cathedral’s Sub-Dean, Michael Rawson, gave a warm speech of welcome.
The charity’s chairman, Jamie Summers, spoke of the quality not the quantity of supporters which had remained unchanged over the past 20 years. Marion Marples, a pastoral auxiliary at the cathedral, then announced the launch of her pamphlet The Journey of Hope, a guide to help strangers visiting this special place. We were splendidly looked after by the lady from the cathedral’s caterers, for whom no request was too small.
The evening healing service in the cathedral that followed at six o’clock drew more than 70 attendees. The service was led by Canon Gilly Myers, with Michael Rawson, Canon Andrew Wilson and Cathy Wiles assisting.
It was a beautifully sensitive and spiritual time of worship and prayer crafted for the occasion. Hymns included Immortal invisible and I, the Lord of sea and sky. Readings were Psalm 42 and John 4: 7-14.
Andrew Wilson gave a moving and inspiring talk reflecting on the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. He focused on Jesus’ and our own vulnerabilities and needs, and how relationship grows when these are acknowledged and met.
Candles complete any birthday celebration. These played a key visual part, with those attending the service coming forward to light and place a candle as a silent prayer in a central floor-standing candelabra. Many also responded to the invitation to receive prayer and oil anointing for healing, for themselves or for others.
May God’s blessing continue to grow the work of and support for Being Alongside / APCMH, and encourage all its volunteers and befrienders—and all those whom they befriend.
Report by Ella Majchrzakowska (a first-time visitor)