A good friend of BRF's, Canon Dr George Lings, extended an invitation to Sheffield to see how Anna Chaplaincy might fit into existing support for older people there. So I spent part of last week staying with him and his wife Helen, and meeting a number of people locally.
We began by visiting Church Army Evangelist, Captain Michael Collyer, who chairs Sheffield Diocesan Resources Group for Seniors and is on the diocese's Faith and Justice Board, which is due to discuss the potential for developing Anna Chaplaincy in the area next month.
Mike Collyer and his colleagues have held two high-profile days on mission and ministry to older people, 'The Blessings of Age: Practical ways of working with the over 65s – A guide for parishes and partnership churches' three years ago, and 'Releasing the Potential of Older People as Valued Participants in Mission, Including People with Dementia' more recently.
Mike, chaplain at the cathedral, told me about his films for seniors, which are proving so popular that they hold them monthly in the morning and afternoon now. He is currently running a Pilgrim Course for older Adults called Faith Stories.
He brought along Helen Coates from his group, who, as well as enlisting volunteers to help develop personalised music playlists for people living with dementia, Playlist for Life, told me about Oaks and Acorns, a project designed to promote intergenerational play activities which is making links between local toddler groups and care homes. Sessions for toddlers and care home residents are proving popular in a number of places in the city. Oaks and Acorns is currently partnering with Sheffcare and Wesley Ebenezer Methodist Church. Contact them here.
Next day we had an opportunity to make links with the Sheffield Church Burgesses Trust, with a history of philanthropy in the city going back hundreds of years to the days of Queen Mary of Tudor. Law Clerk to the Burgesses, Ian Potter of Wrigleys Solicitors, gave us the background to this grant-making body, and I had the opportunity to tell him about the growth of Anna Chaplaincy nationally and to describe how this approach to offering spiritual care might work within the city framework.
Last stop before catching the train home was to meet the Revd Godfrey Smallman for lunch, (former Law Clerk to the Burgesses) and now curate at St Luke's Church, Lodge Moor. He told me about the 'Natter' groups which meet in churches round about started by John Marsh. Visit their website for more information.
There are several other key individuals who are developing such initiatives – including Reminscence Groups and Godly Play – to widen support for older people and offer stimulating activities.
Please pray for the meeting on 11 February of the Faith and Justice Board as they consider Anna Chaplaincy as a possible way forward. We hope this is the start of developing a fruitful relationship with churches in the diocese, and across different denominations, so that Anna Chaplaincy might become part of the landscape too.
George Lings is author of BRF's Reproducing Churches (2017), investigating the theological basis for church planting and creating fresh expressions of church. Click here for more information.