Living in the end times: a short course addressing end of life issues for older people in an English parish church setting

Joanna Collicutt (Spiritual Care for Older People, Diocese of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.)

Working with Older People

ISSN: 1366-3666

Publication date: 14 September 2015



The purpose of this paper is to report a pilot study that evaluated an innovative practice in a faith community context designed to help older people live well at the end of life and prepare for death.


A simple audit of the intervention using a contemporaneous journal kept by the author, and a follow up questionnaire completed by participants.


Rich findings on the process are reported. These indicate a high degree of engagement by participants, the establishment of a high degree of group intimacy and trust, a high level of articulation of wisdom, the emergence of significant anxiety in some isolated cases, and the use made of tea and cake to manage the transition between the existentially demanding nature of the discussions and normal life. The outcome indicated very high levels of appreciation and increased confidence in relation to issues of death and dying.

Practical implications

The findings of the pilot have been used to inform training of clergy in the principles of working in this area (e.g. in ways of managing group dynamics and anxiety, pacing, tuning in to archetypes and the natural symbols that people use to talk about death and dying, self-care and supervision of the programme leader/facilitator).


The paper adds to knowledge in terms of an in depth description of processes at work in a group of older people working on spiritual and practical issues in relation to death, and offers ideas for supporting older people in this process, some of which are specific to the Christian tradition, and some of which are more widely applicable to people of all faiths and none. It gives a specific worked example of what “spiritual care” in this area might look like.



Collicutt, J. (2015), "Living in the end times: a short course addressing end of life issues for older people in an English parish church setting", Working with Older People, Vol. 19 No. 3, pp. 140-149.

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