Face to Faith – Val Dodsworth

Published on: 1 January 2017

Val has been involved in the rehabilitation of offenders for most of her life. After 20 years in the Probation Service and five in the chaplaincy in Norwich Prison, in December 2000 she started the House of Genesis (A place for a new start) by welcoming homeless men into her own home.

How did you come to faith?

Well, that’s a messy story! Evacuated between the ages of three and six, I returned to my mother and grew up with her; my parents separated when my father came back after the war in 1944. There was no room for, or mention of God, in my childhood. As a teenager I became more and more out of control, stealing and fighting on the streets until finally I got pregnant and was sent away to a home. It was here that I was introduced to Jesus, who could clean my life up and give me a fresh start, which I knew I needed.

On the whole, and considering how it started, it has been a wonderful journey of life, very many joys to look back on as I can trace the golden thread of God’s hand and guidance. Without the early difficulties I faced, I might not have been as equipped as I am to deal with the continuing challenges of the work of helping ex-offenders forward in their lives which is what The House of Genesis is all about. No experiences are wasted in God’s planning.

How has your faith changed as you’ve got older?

With the passing of the years I’ve found that the confidence and certainties of how to deal with situations have become less clear, and the need to find the Lord’s answers to problems more necessary. So it has become more important than ever to cultivate and strengthen the relationship with my ever present Friend, who never fails or forsakes me.

But, knowing that He is always there can lead to complacency. Do I go to church because that’s what I’ve done for 60 years, or is there still within me a wanting to know His presence and to worship and thank Him?

Also, as one gets older, there’s the bit about learning to cope with losing people and situations that have been of major importance in life; my husband died after only 10 years of marriage; retirement from paid employment also left me questioning if I was of worth anymore; and then there’s the questions posed by declining health and the uncertainty of the years ahead. I have very recently been faced with the loss of ability to drive as my eyes begin to deteriorate.

So very easy to be sorry for oneself, but if Paul could be content in all situations, so too will I, and after just a couple of days I am back to counting my blessings.

I may have no family, but I do have a great many friends, and one of the good things about living alone is the presence of Jesus and the times of quiet to enjoy the peace and love He brings.

And the greatest blessing is that as things in this world get more troublesome, the gates of heaven get closer by the day!

Val was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to homeless people and to the community in Norwich in 2015.

This article is from...

Articles in this issue...

Spiritual gifts in later life

"I believe that spirituality is very much part of my religion, my faith, my meaning, my understanding, and spirituality lifts me and aids me in my everyday work."


Monday Mardle at Saxlingham Nethergate

Corinne Douglas and Celia Blyth are archetypal "third agers": in their early 70's, active, committed members of their parish church. Twelve years ago they saw a need in their community and decided to do something about it.


Volunteering is good for everyone!

Giving just a little of your time can make a big difference, not only to those you’re helping but to yourself too. A May 2012 study by the Royal Voluntary Service (formerly the WRVS) found that volunteering in later life decreased depression and social isolation. It was also found to boost quality of life and life satisfaction. For us as Christians, it’s also encouraged in the Bible: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)


God’s grace perseveres through our ages and stages

When I was asked to contribute this comment, it was a shock to realise that I had been numbered as one of the Elect of the Third Age - but of course, that’s what I am, with a fair number of All Hallows’ Community.


700 and still counting

What a beautiful place! … this is a ‘must see’ when in Norwich. Very welcoming, from the moment we stepped through the door … were greeted by a guide with information and a very welcome leaflet (I love a leaflet!). Trip Advisor October 2016


From beginning to end with Open the Book

The bible is full of stories of people who entered into ministry later in life. With more people now aged over 60 than under 18 in the UK, what role do older people have to play in relating to the younger generation? Irene Nickerson talks about her role as Open the Book Coordinator for Norfolk.


Building an intergenerational culture in your church

For many it seems society is becoming ever more divided and more insular and we are losing the ability to communicate – especially across intergenerational boundaries. Toddlers, Teenagers, Generation X, 3rd Generation – all these terms divide up our communities, putting them in boxes that mean we plan activities by age – young people in schools, older people in retirement homes.


The Gift of Years

As more churches seek to respond to the challenges of a rapidly ageing population, The Bible Reading Fellowship’s The Gift of Years ministry signposts ways in which our later years can be more spiritually fertile, and infinitely more fulfilling.


From generation to generation – learning life lessons

Biddy Collyer had been living alone in a two bedroomed house in Norwich city centre for 15 years and during that time had a number of lodgers, all male. Last year she knew that a young friend from church, Suze Rose, wanted to move from Dereham where she had been working and living with her parents since leaving University. Biddy invited her to move in while she completed her training as a Beauty Therapist. Twelve months on, the reflect on an experience of house-sharing across generations.


Talkin’ ’bout my generation

Contrary to what many rock starts expected, they did not die before they got old, and our churches nowadays contain many from the rock generation. Some of them are in leadership positions. Time Lenton explores the concept of the "boomer" Christians.


Keep up to date

Subscribe to our eNews for a snapshot of news, events and resources, usually emailed once a fortnight

Signup to newsletter