We were thrilled that face-to-face meetings resumed this week with a trip to meet the Mothers’ Union in Wales. They had invited the Anna Chaplaincy church lead in Wales, Sally Rees, and me (writes Debbie Thrower) to address their AGM held at St Idloes Church, Llanidloes, Montgomeryshire.
The historic market town in mid-Wales was a convenient central point for more than 40 Mothers’ Union representatives, along with their six respective diocesan MU presidents, to convene from all over the principality.
I sketched out the picture of Anna Chaplaincy’s spiritual support for older people in many parts of the UK, while Sally spoke in more detail about exciting developments as more and more Anna Chaplains are being commissioned in Wales, from a variety of different denominations.
Like many institutions hit hard by the pandemic, the Mothers’ Union locally, as well as nationally, is seeking to adapt to new circumstances and find fresh ways to serve communities in towns, cities and often remote rural locations.
Llanidloes, near the source of the River Severn, is famous for the Chartists demanding better parliamentary representation in the nineteenth century and has reinvented itself numerous times – moving from a thriving centre for wool weaving and flannel-making to profitable lead mining and beyond.
A former local butchers, boasting a former royal warrant no less, was described in 1894 as ‘the most up to date butchers in the UK’, but now it has a 'To Let' notice up – advertising the premises as available for commercial rent. These are such challenging times for the retail and hospitality sectors. But experience shows how resilient towns and their residents can be.
In the past year and more of lockdowns and restrictions, the Anna Chaplaincy team at BRF has seen a steep rise in numbers of people coming forward to pursue a vocation to ministry among older people. Seven new Anna Chaplains have been commissioned in the last month alone.
Sally and I left the AGM feeling we had started an important conversation with the MU in Wales. Kay Warrington said: ‘The members were inspired by your excellent presentations and I am hopeful that we can take this forward. I think in the current climate members may need some time for reflection but it will happen.’
Meanwhile, further links between Anna Chaplaincy and the MU are being forged in Cumbria and in the south-east of England, particularly.
The Mothers’ Union is a 4 million strong movement, pledged to:
Strengthen communities all over the world
Help the most disadvantaged at home
MU has a proud tradition of supporting its members and wider society, not least through work in prisons and helping families.
‘Loving action’ was the theme for worship at the AGM, resonating well with all we brought to discussions that day (3 November 2021) in the parish church in Llanidloes.
So, watch this space!