As the year draws to an end the Chaplaincy team at YMCA LSW gets ready to host two Christmas Carol Services at YMCA Surbiton and YMCA Wimbledon over the next weeks, we look back at some of highlights of 2015…
“2015 has been a year for reflection and improving the quality of the services we offer,” YMCA Chaplain Jacky Bone, says.
“Also, the team has grown, with Jonathan Melville-Thomas joining us as a second Association Chaplain and Rev Jon Kissell from St George’s Church in Tolworth joining the team part-time. As a result, we have been able to deliver our services to more people across the Association.”
Jonathan came from the position as Director of Youth Work at YMCA LSW around one year ago. He now works alongside Jacky as a part-time chaplain which he combines with another chaplaincy role at Oasis College in Waterloo.
“I wanted to go back into being a spiritual life coach,” Jonathan says. “I see my role in the chaplaincy team as a bit similar to that of a football coach – running up and down on the side line, rooting for the people we work with to succeed, but also sometimes asking them the challenging and difficult questions they need to move on.”
The Chaplaincy team has also had a good year in terms of growing volunteer numbers, many of whom are former residents from YMCA LSW’s hostels, like Paul (insert link).
“We’re lucky to have a really strong team of 10 passionate and dedicated volunteers. Some are from local churches and some are former residents. They are absolutely vital in enabling us to deliver our services.”
“We have a great partnership with the local faith community, they really want to roll their sleeves up and work with us where there are needs,” Jonathan says.
A highlight in what Jacky calls a “busy, but fun year” was the Life Journey course, which is made up of two one-day retreats and a five- day residential trip to retreat centre Nicholaston House in Wales in the spring.
As the name suggests, Life Journey is a course offered to residents in YMCA St Paul’s Group’s hostels who feel “stuck” in their life journey and “want to move forward but for various reasons can’t.”
“We have sessions reflecting on issues such as loss and bereavement which often prevent residents from moving on. On the residential trip, we look at our life journeys in more depth through workshops and art and music therapy,” Jacky says.
“Also, in addition to the formal discussions and therapy sessions, I find that it is often through the informal conversations during meals, or late at night, or when we take a walk on the beach, that the residents open up and start reflecting on how they can move on,” Jonathan adds.
“All of the eight residents who came along to Wales have done really well upon returning. All have moved out of the YMCA hostels and are either working, in education or volunteering. Two of them have joined a Church and been baptised,” Jacky says.
“Our dream for 2016 is to deliver not just one, but two Life Journey residentials. We’d really like to do one for staff and volunteers too. But it’s all a matter of funding. We rely solely on donations and fundraising and need to raise around £5,000 for each residential trip,” says Jacky.
Snack and chat
On a weekly basis, the Chaplaincy team runs popular ‘snack and chat’ and evening discussion sessions at YMCA Surbiton and YMCA Wimbledon. They discuss topics such as anger, loneliness, relationships and spirituality, followed by optional reflection and prayer.
“Our services are open to people of all faiths, or none,” explains Jacky. “And it is important to highlight that we are not just for the residents. We are also available to volunteers and staff, members and the wider public.”
Time to listen
“What the Chaplaincy team can offer, is time,” Jonathan explains. “We have time to sit down and listen to residents, staff or members of the public. Often people want to come and talk to us about loss and bereavement.”
Another service which brings together residents, YMCA staff and the public is the Community Choir who meet every Wednesday at 7pm in the café at YMCA Surbiton.
“The choir has people of all ages and from all sectors of the YMCA community and it aims to give people a sense of belonging,” Jacky says.
Christmas Carol services
The choir is holding a Christmas carol service at YMCA Surbiton on Wednesday 16 December, which is free and open to all. YMCA Wimbledon’s carol service is taking place on Tuesday 22 December at 7pm.