Caterham Faith and Light community meets bi-monthly on Sunday afternoons at St Mary’s. This is an ecumenical community of people with learning disabilities together with friends and families.
In April 2018 Michael Grice passed away. He had been a member of Caterham Faith and Light since it started in 1998. His funeral service took place in St Mary’s church and many from the Faith and Light community were there to say their goodbyes and to offer their prayers.
Every five years Faith and Light holds an International meeting and this summer I was asked to represent UK South. Spending a week in Lebanon with about 220 members of Faith and Light from 52 of the 83 countries where there are communities proved to be a joyful, uplifting and amazing experience. There were many opportunities to begin to get to know people- from places such as Syria, Rwanda, Estonia- to hear a little of their story, to hear about their community. It was also good to stand back sometimes and to observe and notice- to hear the different languages, to see the interaction between people with disabilities and their accompaniers, to see joy and beauty in people’s faces.
One of the highlights for me was a visit to the ancient city of Byblos. This was special because of the beautiful welcome we were given – as our buses arrived in the car park we were greeted by members of Faith and Light communities, wearing their blue scarves. They had music playing for us- from their car- and they showered us with coloured tissue paper and handed out trays of homemade cakes. Some were in wheelchairs. This was such a beautiful moment. Then they led us through the streets to show us the ancient city.
After journeying together during this week in Lebanon it was time to return to our own countries, all of us encouraged and enriched by the encounters we had had and the stories we had heard. We had our community meeting in Caterham the next day and it was good to be able to share a little news from our international family and also to realise afresh that at the heart of Faith and Light is each community, each member expressing their own personality and developing and offering their own gifts in a community sustained by the love of God.
Towards the end of 2018 Faith and Light UK experienced difficulties obtaining suitable insurance cover and no communities were able to meet for several months. However this meant that we were able to go into the care homes where some of the members live and to hold meetings there, sharing our mimes, songs and prayers with other residents and with the staff too. The insurance situation has now been resolved and we were able to resume our meetings in March 2019.
Faith and Light in Caterham began 21 years ago. Over the last few months there have been changes in the circumstances for the team responsible for organising and planning our meetings. We have discussed the options open to us and after prayerful consideration feel the best way forward is for us to meet until November, holding all the booked meetings, then to close the Caterham Faith and Light Community. The decision was not easy as we have all enjoyed and been blessed by many happy times in Faith and Light.
The session next November will be the last for Caterham Faith and Light. We intend to make this a celebration of all the good times and friendships we have enjoyed over the last 21 years. We will include all our favourite activities in a way that we hope will convey to all of our friends that we value them and that things are changing but we have many happy memories of times of joy to take with us.