A first for Dover!
Updated: Mar 22
Wendy Bowditch’s commissioning as Anna Chaplain is a first for Dover.
A congregation of all ages gathered at St Martin’s Church in Dover on Sunday 13 March 2022 to celebrate reader Wendy Bowditch being commissioned Anna Chaplain within the Dover Town Team Ministry. Wendy was commissioned by team vicar Melissa Carter and presented by Julia Burton-Jones, Anna Chaplaincy lead for Canterbury Diocese.
Julia was invited to speak at the service about the role of an Anna Chaplain. She explained that Wendy has long sensed a calling to ministry with older people. During the autumn of 2021 she completed the online Anna Chaplaincy course with others in East Kent who have also since been commissioned, and she will meet regularly with them for learning and support. She and Julia spent an uplifting Saturday in February at the diocesan healing and wholeness centre, The Living Well; the day was themed around Anna ministry and affirmed Anna Chaplains in their calling.
Wendy read these words from Psalm 71 during the service:
‘Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvellous deeds. Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.’ (NIV)
Since coming to faith at the age of 13 she can see God’s faithfulness through the ups and downs of her life. Now she has ‘grey hair’, the Lord continues to speak to her and direct her life. This passage resonated deeply on the occasion of her commissioning into a new ministry.
Before retiring in 2021, Wendy worked in the NHS in the local community mental health team for older people, most often with patients with dementia and their families, so she brings much relevant skill and experience to her Anna Chaplaincy work.
Her ministry takes her to a local care home for people living with dementia and she has been invited to act as chaplain at the UK’s first dementia village, Harmonia, when it opens. She is making links with local sheltered housing schemes where her offer of support for residents with dementia who have no other visitors has been welcomed by managers. There are many opportunities to reach out to older people, and Wendy hopes to build a team of volunteers. Several at the commissioning service expressed interest in getting involved in the work.
Wendy feels drawn to minister alongside older people who are dying, whether in hospital, local care homes or their own homes. She is planning to train in end-of-life spiritual care and is currently enjoying a book recommended recently on this blog, With the End in Mind: How to live and die well by Kathrin Mannix.
As Wendy’s vicar, Melissa is delighted to see her growing ministry among older people, saying ‘Wendy’s heart for older people and her strength of faith have been recognisable to me ever since I started in Dover two and a half years ago.’
Reflecting on being commissioned Anna Chaplain, Wendy said:
‘Sunday was a day of excitement and reflection as I was commissioned as Dover’s first Anna Chaplain. It took me two to three years before I said “Yes” to God. I didn't want to be disobedient; but wanted to be sure because being an Anna Chaplain is all about the person I am with – not about me. I am just a vessel for God to use.’