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Care home sets resident on path to freedom 

Staff at a care home in Griston helped a resident to break the power of an alcohol addiction which set him on a journey into the waters of baptism. Kyla Sorenson tells the story.

St Marys Church has always had a good relationship with Thorp House in Griston, as over the years some former members of the church family have been residents at the home. Rev Gerry Foster, former Vicar of Watton, has been a tremendous support to both residents and staff, and I was more than happy to move into that role and continue to build on those pastoral connections.
 
So it was natural that when Michael expressed the desire to speak with a priest, the caring staff at Thorp House contacted me. During my first visit Michael and I talked at some length about his history and his desire to bring the love of Jesus more fully into his life. The staff at the Griston home have been so encouraging and supportive of Michael and his journey to overcome his alcohol addiction. He told me that moving to Thorp House helped him to change his life for the better, so that he can live the remainder of his life more fully as himself in their love and care.
 
But he wanted to do something that would mark his transformation and represent his moving away from the old and taking on this new way of being. With the support of the people around him – family, friends and carers, Michael had turned his face and his life towards Jesus. The more we talked, the more it became apparent that what Michael was yearning for was baptism. 
 
The Christian rite of passage traces its roots back to John the Baptist and Jesus himself and is highly symbolic of this ‘metanoia’; this complete turning around when we reject sin and choose to follow Christ. This was particularly important and symbolic for Michael during the service conducted in the Thorp House conservatory overlooking the beautiful gardens.
 
It was a special time, shared with some of Michael’s family, with other residents and with many of the staff. The room was decorated with fresh flowers from the garden and with garlands around the windows. Michael sat bravely amongst us and we held him in prayer and celebrated with him as he affirmed his belief and confirmed his desire to turn away from what had gone before and live a new life in the love of Jesus. It is because of the ongoing love and care he has received from the staff at Thorp House that Michael has been strong enough to make this commitment.
 
Michael wrote a special prayer for the service which he read out. We were all in tears at its beauty and absolute honesty. It was such a privilege to be a part of Michael’s journey and to be asked to guide him through this significant and potent ritual. 
 
Afterwards we shared communion together, followed by some celebratory cake and coffee. As the afternoon drew to a close, the winter sun cast a cool orange light across the trees in the gardens. We had tipped the unused holy water from the font onto one of the plants, planted in memory of a former resident and I couldn’t help but think what an unexpected blessing my time had been with Michael and his family in the very special place.
 
His story is one of courage and of transformation – with God’s help his honest witness brought hope to each of us privileged to be present. May he continue to be blessed with God’s abundant love.  
 
Pictured above is Rev Kyla Sorenson baptising Michael Harper at the care home.
 
 

Eldred Willey, 25/11/2021

Eldred Willey

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