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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

A Surrey community gets its own Anna Chaplain

A first for Surrey - as Anne Milton-Worssell becomes the county's first Anna Chaplain

Elaine Crutchley

The seeds of this particular Anna Chaplaincy go back a long way! Not only did Anne Milton-Worssell first hear about Anna Chaplaincy in 2015, but since then Elaine Crutchley in Great Bookham describes how one step has followed another, all leading in this direction:

'In March 2019 we held a day conference in Bookham where our small ecumenical charity is based. We felt that we wanted to see if there was a hunger to address the spiritual needs of older people in our community.

Debbie Thrower speaking at the Bookham conference in 2019

Ninety people attended and Debbie Thrower who was our keynote speaker inspired us to start the journey towards setting up an Anna Chaplaincy in Bookham and the neighbouring areas of Fetcham and Effingham. We wanted to ensure our chaplaincy was supported and owned by all our local churches and it has been exciting to see our vision gradually taking shape, resulting in The Meeting Place: a social enterprise made up of a group of people from the local churches and our friends who work together to provide a resource for the people of Bookham and surroundings. It includes a telephone befriending scheme for older people.

Whenever there were setbacks we have been amazed how God has shown us the way forward. One such was my concern that despite advertising over many months we were not getting the response to our adverts in the Christian press and through our church networks.

I shared my concerns at the Anna Coordinator’s Forum which is organized by Julia Burton-Jones and had many helpful suggestions from Anna Coordinators across the country. As a result our advertisement was brought to Anne’s attention and when we met her we just knew that she was God’s woman for our fledgling chaplaincy. It is exciting to know that the responsibility of laying the foundation for this work is in such capable hands'.

We asked Anne Milton-Worssell to introduce herself and tell us how she was drawn to this ministry:

'I have just been appointed as Anna Chaplain in the Bookham area of Surrey. This marks a significant point in my life, as I have been considering Anna Chaplaincy for the last five years or so. I was deeply moved by a presentation given by Debbie at a meeting for Locally Licensed Ministers (Readers) within the Diocese of Guildford, as I realised that for a number of years my ministry as a Reader had become very focused on our older generation. I had been taking a number of funerals, visiting care homes and older members in their own homes, as well as helping at events at my church for our older members.

My work, too, had led in this direction as an adult education tutor with the Workers’ Educational Association. I had been involved in a project to reach frail and elderly learners, which included taking classes in care homes and sheltered housing. This introduced me to working with people suffering from dementia and using my skills as a historian to take examples of oral history from older residents recording their memories of childhood and of the second world war. They were amazed to realise what they remembered could be valuable to historians.

However, an opportunity to work as an Anna Chaplain was not obvious – I was keen to work with several denominations, as my background meant that I had started off as a Local Preacher on the Methodist Circuit, becoming a Reader in the Church of England at a later stage.

Just as I hit the age of 70 I saw the advert for the post at Bookham - and my first thought was ‘its too late – I’m too old now’. But God did not leave me alone. He reminded me that I had been asking him what I should do now? I felt, despite a sense that it couldn’t happen, that I should push the doors. So, I applied – after the closing date – was interviewed and indicated that 20 hours was a lot for me but I could give 10 – and amazingly was appointed! Elaine, my line manager said that they realised that Anna Ministry was all about ‘the gift of years’ and they felt they should honour that.

I am very excited to get going with the existing work (I am privileged to see a work that is already very active) and discover what God is going to do NOW. I have been a Christian since I was 19 and, in my time, have worked with young peoples’ groups, Young wives, and a whole host of church activities – leading house groups, taking on leading congregations within the church.

Besides being a wife, mother, and grandmother I also cared for my father-in-law for ten years through his nineties, not realising what a wonderful preparation this is for working with older people. I have in my working life been a librarian, University lecturer and Adult Education tutor, and feel it is the greatest of privileges to be with people at all stages of their lives. They have so much to Give me!

So I want to thank The Meeting Place at Bookham for this opportunity and pray with them that we will all see older people embracing faith, to add to all their amazing experiences.




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