I knew on first entering Royd Court, run by Christian charity Pilgrims' Friend Society, that it was a place rooted in prayer and full of the Spirit. It was just before Christmas over a decade ago and the residents had gathered in the lounge cheerily singing carols. As we hold our annual Pilgrims' Friend Society Prayer Week (12-18 September), I think back over my time at Royd Court, particularly the storm of the last year and a half. I am encouraged that we continue to stand firm on a foundation of faithful prayer, but as the Church we need to continue praying for older people and the issues that face them, especially as so many of them are diligent in their prayers for the wider world.
Prayer has been our rock through the pandemic. When Covid struck, Abi, the care manager, and I went for a prayer walk around the building. Bibles in hand we set off. When we got to each of the corners we stopped and prayed. By the time we got to the first corner we were crying so much we had to run back for tissues. It was incredibly emotional, but as we prayed through the tears a verse from Psalm 91 v10 came to me, "no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your home".
We prayed that Covid would not enter our home. And the Lord has answered our prayers. We have not had a single symptomatic case of coronavirus in Royd Court. Not one. We continue to ask for protection every day but, in the midst of the devastation the virus has caused, we rejoice in the incredible blessing of the Lord's continued protection.
During lockdown we sent prayer letters to each of our residents to highlight specific times and issues we would all pray for. There was a real sense that even though we couldn't be together physically, we were united in community as we prayed.
Since before the first brick was laid, prayer has been a foundation of Royd Court. When Pilgrims' Friend Society first set out to build the Housing Scheme, they struggled to find a suitable location. They finally found a site and, after the rigmarole of negotiations, had an offer accepted. But the team's relief was short lived when only a short while later the offer was retracted. The seller had received a significantly higher offer from a supermarket chain.
The management team were devastated and asked for prayer. Together with the volunteers and staff, they prayed and waited. A couple of days passed and they were beginning to consider other options, when they received a phone call from the seller. Since deciding to sell to the supermarket chain, he had been unable to sleep as Royd Court and Pilgrims' Friend Society wouldn't leave his mind. He was ringing to say that he was returning to the lower offer to sell the property to Pilgrims' Friend Society. The power of our prayers to the Lord Jesus — as we seek an almighty and loving God who can make a way when the situation seems impossible — cannot be underestimated!
But it isn't the building that gives Royd Court its foundation in prayer, it is the people that live here. Whether it is John, one of our residents, getting up at 5am every morning for 365 days of the year to pray through the Psalms. Or the elderly husband and wife who, throughout the pandemic, took lists of the male and female residents respectively and rang each one every single day to pray with them.
The assumption that working with older, frailer people means you have more impact on them as a carer than they have on you, could not be further from the truth. Our residents may sometimes be physically frail, but they are prayer warriors. I often feel they keep our team going, not the other way around. Just the other week, a member of staff had a serious operation. The depth of the residents' prayers was palpable, and the operation was an incredible success — there are so many other examples I could share.
We have recently started gathering together again to pray in limited group gatherings and my, how we have all missed it! The residents come together every morning from Monday to Friday as a community. During one of the first meetings, I was working in the top floor lounge, but ended up not getting much done that half hour! The sound of their singing was absolutely unbelievable. It was so loud, so heartfelt, that I got my phone out to record it. And I was two floors up!
I feel the peace and power of knowing the residents are upholding us and each other in prayer every day and I have so much to learn from them. In the wisdom of their years and the crises they have lived through, they have learnt the importance of having prayer as a foundation of their living and active faith.
I hope this testimony of answered prayer and the goodness of our God will encourage you to join with Pilgrims' Friend Society in praying for older people and the issues facing them in the coming week. Go to https://www.pilgrimsfriend.org.uk/get-involved/pray/prayerweek to find out more or follow @PilgrimsFS on social media.
Having previously worked in the gas industry, Vicki Miller has been the Scheme Manager at independent housing scheme Royd Court based in Mirfield, West Yorkshire and run by Pilgrims' Friend Society, since 2010.