LD Week 2021: Jacob's story

Our newest member of the LYPFT chaplaincy team blogs for LD Week

Reverend Sam Cowling-Green, Chaplain, The Becklin Centre

A few years ago, before I joined the trust, I spent a year living in Florida in a community for adults with learning disabilities. While I was there, I met Jacob. Jacob is in his sixties and, if you put a microphone near him, he sings Country Roads in a deep southern American drawl.

Jacob has lived much of his adult life in an institution – a place of sterile corridors and limited time outside. Sadly, while he was there, he experienced years of physical, mental, and emotional abuse.

I met Jacob a decade later in his new community. He had started making crosses out of fragments of broken glass. Jacob is blind so friends would guide his hand over the glass so he could find the right shapes and colours and piece them together. Over a few years of being loved by the people around him and loving them in return, the hurting pieces of Jacob’s life quietly and slowly found healing. As they did, he invited everyone around him to find their own place and their own healing in his community.

When I think about what chaplaincy is, I think of Jacob, his friends, and the crosses he still makes with them. One of them hangs in my office. At its best, chaplaincy offers people a path towards wholeness. A place where all the pieces of our lives can fit and make sense. Jacob reminds me of the gift of friends with and without learning disabilities who help us make something beautiful out of the fragments of our lives.

Jacob’s Cross









Jacob’s story is shared with permission. His name has been changed.

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We would like to welcome Sam, our new chaplain to the trust. He is based in the Becklin Centre, and will be working across the Trust as part of his role.

Sam said: “I’m really excited to be here and care deeply about making sure that staff and service users have access to inclusive spiritual and pastoral care.  Before I came to the Trust, I worked with adults with learning disabilities in Alabama in the USA and then in Manchester back in the UK. I’m also a priest within the Church of England.

“Chaplaincy is here to help the Trust provide holistic care for patients and staff regardless of their spiritual background. Spirituality is about our need to find meaning, purpose, and to connect with something bigger than ourselves. It can be explicitly about God, but it can also be about our care for family, love of nature, or special places. For instance, my own spiritual needs are met in prayer, in nature, and in time with friends and family.

“At times of mental illness, a person’s spirituality often becomes more important to them. Talking with a compassionate person to explore their spirituality, or what gives them hope and meaning, can be an important part of their journey towards healing and wholeness.

“For people who belong to a particular faith group, we can help provide a representative from that faith to meet with.”