Heart to Heart

Talking to the Samaritans on 14 April 2016

Feedback from Revd. Mark Thompson:Mary and Jean spoke passionately and naturally of their experiences as Samaritan volunteers as a diverse audience questioned and then listened intently to all they had to say. They were just ordinary non-professionals making themselves available day and night to a wide range of people in distress.

They emphasised that fundamental to their work was active listening refusing to be distracted into giving advice or thinking about what next to say. They were honest lay people with no axe to grind or answers to supply. They were non- the less rigorously selected and trained and sensitively nurtured by their team leader so as not to be affected adversely by any disturbing conversation.

Church members enquired how congregations could be more supportive of people in distress. “Be authentic and accepting with no hidden agenda” was the simple reply.

It was question and answer all the way through the session as it developed into an extended conversation rather than a presentation. Much informal discussion followed as people shared their thoughts with each other. The hospitality provided by our generous hosts at Plume Avenue United Reformed Church provided the backdrop to a very special occasion.

Feedback from Valerie dent:Our second lunchtime meeting was held on Thursday, 14 April 2016 at Plume Avenue United Reformed Church in Colchester and was attended by about 50 people from all walks of life.

On arrival we were offered a welcome ‘cuppa’ and a delicious buffet style lunch kindly provided by members of Plume Avenue Church.

Our guest speakers were two representatives from The Samaritans. Most of us would have heard of this group, and probably thought we knew what they did, i.e. talk to people who are at the end of their tether and are considering taking their own lives. The ladies explained that folk do not need to feel suicidal to contact the Samaritans. If anyone felt the need to talk, they are there to listen. Their service is completely confidential and non-judgmental. Nothing told to them is ever passed on to a third party.

They explained that, unlike many support groups, the Samaritans are available by telephone 24/7. If the local number is busy, then the call is transferred to the next available operator, ensuring that no-one is kept waiting for a lengthy time. As well as by telephone, people can also email or text (not a 24/7 service).

Many people asked differing questions which the ladies happily answered.

Our Chairman, the Revd Mark Thompson,concluded the meeting by thanking, on our behalf, the two speakers for their interesting and informative talk. He also thanked the members of Plume Avenue URC for their warm welcome and for providing the excellent lunch.