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Planting a Congregation in a Retirement Complex

Winchester Vineyard

What would you do if God told you to move into an independent living, retirement complex before you felt you were ready?  Out of obedience, that’s exactly what Neil and Jenny did last year.

Over the past few months it has been made clear that this move really was of God – Neil and Jenny have had some incredible conversations with other residents, and had the opportunity to start a monthly service and small group on site!

We chatted to Jenny to find out some more about what they have been up to. 

“Soon after moving into the complex, we recognised that several people who had been to church through their lives were now not able to get themselves to church, and when asked, said they would love to have a service on site. This was well received by Management and the Care Team Manager alike. We gathered three other couples from Winchester Vineyard and had our first service on Mothering Sunday this March. Since then, it has been well attended, with over 20 residents from the 52 flats most weeks. 

For 40 minutes every month, we meet together, which we start and finish with a hymn (one of which is requested from the congregation!). We’ve designed the service to suit all denominations as it’s attended by Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists and also people who haven’t been to church before. We have Bible readings from the Old Testament and the New Testament, followed by a short talk and a time of prayer together. Additionally to the service, we recently organised a Songs of Praise service which the residents absolutely loved!

After the final hymn we close and have tea and cake, and everyone loves the opportunity to spend time together and get to know one another. We felt that there should be a further and more regular opportunity for residents to be more involved, to explore the Christian faith and to participate in discussions, so we started the ‘Christian Friendship Group’. Ten people attend each week – we start with an ice breaker in which everyone participates, read the Bible together and sometimes we sing. We often have a discussion about what we can do for others – despite our physical limitations – for example, we recently sent a card of encouragement to our care manager and discussed what to write and everyone signed it. We end with a special prayer that we have written together that everyone loves to pray. Residents are also very open for us to pray for them individually, which is wonderful. 

The management team are so supportive. We have continual grateful thanks that the service means so much to our residents – it has been requested that we would run it every week! 

I have many opportunities to visit and pray for lots of people. Last week, it was a huge privilege to lead my neighbour to faith in Jesus. I just popped in to play him the hymns the day before the service as he is almost blind and cannot read the words on the screen. We started discussing God and faith and I was able to lead him in a prayer to give his life to Jesus. I am trusting it is the first of many!”

Sometimes God calls us to take a step of faith into something new when we don’t know ‘why’, or how everything will work out. For Neil and Jenny, this was moving from their home into the retirement complex, before they felt ready! What we do know is that God has plans for our lives that are far greater than what we can imagine or comprehend and that we can trust that he is with us every step of the way. 

If you have a story about what God is doing in your life and community, email it to [email protected] 

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