The "Care" scheme run by the Churches in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, which was praised by Cardinal Heenan at the last Westminster Pastoral Council meeting, embodies the practical benefits of Christian unity.
The scheme, started 18 months ago, and involving all the Christian Churches of Rickmansworth, assigned 300 volunteers to help those in need of a "good neighbour".
"Care" duty officers, operating on a rota, have provided a 24-hour telephone service through an arrangement with the telephone ex change, linking those in need of help with someone able to help them. Valuable help has been given on more than 1,500 occasions.
Catholics are active in the scheme, including Admiral Sir Francis Turner, its chairman, and Mrs. Edith Dominian, the vice-chairman.
Mrs. Dominian said the original nucleus of volunteers was gathered from the local Churches and the scheme began with a special service of dedication. But "Care" was by no means limited to regular churchgoers, and volunteers had been recruited at public meetings.
Mrs. Dominian said that among the cases helped was that of a married couple of whom the wife had had to look after her mother, who needed someone with her the whole time, so that the couple were unable to go out together for a single evening for years.
After "Care" had been contacted, a volunteer came in one evening a week to look after the mother and allow the couple a night out. In this par ticular case the wife had been so run down by the situation that she was on the point of breakdown before "Care" aided them.
"Care" has five section leaders for each of the main areas it helps in. These have emerged as: transport; visiting; "heavy" help in the home, such as redecorating; "light" help, such as cleaning or child-minding; and liaison with other organisations. Tasks have included laying carpets in old people's homes and taking children to visit their parents in hospital.
Doctors, social workers and those working with the elderly have conic to rely more and more on "Care," and the scheme now estimates that 30 per cent of the calls made on them come from professional social workers. A lot of the tasks taken on, such as regular visiting of old people. or the sick, are now organised on a rota basis.
Inspiration for the Rickmansworth scheme came from neighbouring Bushey, which earlier began a similar scheme about which an educational film was made.
"Care" describes its helpers as "just ordinary men and women who are prepared to use a little of their time and talents to help others," who undertake jobs "for folk who would love to be able to nianage for themselves, but find they no longer can."
They work in close association with other voluntary groups, such as the Samaritans, and never call on anyone who has not asked to be visited.
The success of the scheme, which was set up after a careful survey of local needs, is visible both in the number volunteering to help and the
increasing amount of calls made upon them.
Sir Francis, the chairman, who has received many letters expressing thanks from those helped, said: "Very often even the simplest tasks undertaken willingly at the crucial moment can make a tremendous difference to the way a person is able to cope with the problems of life."
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began a little early at Rickmansworth, many members of "Care" joining in a United Service of Worship last Sunday at the Catholic Church of Our Lady Help of Christians.