Caring for older pilgrims
On 1 November, a new era began for the Dorothea Trust in Bedford, as it merged with Pilgrim Homes – retaining its original purpose of caring for the Lord’s older saints. To mark the occasion a thanksgiving service was held at Providence Chapel, Rothsay Road, in Bedford.
Providence Chapel is surrounded by heritage sites linked to Bedford’s greatest son, John Bunyan, so it suited this gathering of pilgrims particularly well. The chapel has wonderful acoustics and the old hymns rang to the rafters, particularly the Dorothea Trust’s ‘signature’ hymn ‘To God be the glory’.
According to Pauline Searle, daughter of founder Pastor Douglas Quy, this hymn was the theme of every accomplishment and celebration during the trust’s forty-year existence. And there was much to give thanks for as the work grew from a residential care home in one large Victorian building to sheltered housing for more able, older Christians in five other buildings, bought and converted over time.
Today the Dorothea Trust stands on a one and a half acre site stretching from one road to another with a large garden in between. It is still known locally as ‘The Haven’, the name given to the first building which housed the care home.
The thanksgiving service began with a welcome from trustee Michael Abbott. Michael Searle, Pauline’s husband and Pastor Quy’s son-in-law, spoke of the Lord’s faithfulness in sustaining the work, and the spiritual oasis that the trust had been for many older Christians.
The need for it had become apparent when Pastor Quy had visited some elderly Christians in a hospital’s geriatric ward. They had nowhere to go afterwards where they could be looked after properly.
He mentioned his concern to a member of his church. ‘What are you going to do about it?’ his friend asked, and from that moment the vision for a care home began to take shape.
When a large Victorian house in a suitable location was put up for sale, Pastor Quy began purchase proceedings before all the money was in hand – to the amazement of his bank manager! But Douglas Quy was a man who could enthuse others, and within a very short time the money needed was in the bank.
The trust had been called the Dorothea because it meant ‘gift of God’, and The Haven had helped over 250 people over the last 40 years. Listening to Michael in the congregation was Lillian Hacking, one of the people who had been there at the beginning. Originally from the Isle of Man, she trained as a nurse in the UK and for a while was matron of The Haven.
She remembers how the Lord’s provision in those early days was a witness to everyone involved, not just the members of the church. Lillian has lived half her lifetime at The Haven. ‘I know every blade of grass almost, here. It is so much a part of me’, she said. She has many tales of ‘pilgrims’ who found rest there and of God’s goodness.
To symbolise the handover, Dorothea Trust chairman Rob Stanton handed a large, bound copy of Pilgrim’s Progress to Alan Copeman, chairman of Pilgrim Homes. Maureen Sim, Pilgrim Homes director of housing and care, said the trust would be known now as Dorothea Court, in keeping with the other ‘courts’ within the society.
‘The atmosphere and ethos of the Dorothea Court is so much like our own that stepping into it is like stepping into any one of our homes. There is the same loving atmosphere and warmth’, she said.
The address was given by Pastor Ray Evans, of Grace Community Church, Kempston. He spoke from Hebrews 11 on Moses’ life and faith, as an example of someone on pilgrimage. At each stage of life we must walk by faith and rely on the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
The day ended in typical Pilgrim Homes’ style with tea and fellowship shared around tables of sandwiches and cakes, beautifully prepared and served.
What would Pastor Douglas Quy have thought of the day? Perhaps he anticipated it. Because in drawing up the deeds of the Dorothea Trust he included a clause which made possible a merger with another organisation.
Perhaps it’s fitting that, in Bunyan’s county, that partner in merger should prove to be Pilgrim Homes!