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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

A whole team of Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends is at work in Deal

Updated: Jun 14, 2022

The Deal and Walmer Anna Chaplaincy team with Anna Chaplaincy training and development lead Julia Burton-Jones (second from left). Canon Jean Kerr is at the centre, back row (fifth from the left).

On the morning of Wednesday 1 June, a team of four Anna Chaplains and three Anna Friends were commissioned at a special service at St George’s Church in Deal, Kent. Canon Jean Kerr, Revd Paul Kerr, Liz Larner and Mary Donaldson were commissioned as Anna Chaplains. James Archer, Bill Donaldson and Ann Price were commissioned as Anna Friends.

Canon Jean Kerr worked as mission and community engagement lead in Rochester Diocese before retiring and it was Jean who first heard about Anna Chaplaincy and felt it would answer questions the diocese was then asking about spiritual care for people with dementia and their families. Funding was sought and Julia Burton-Jones was appointed to work as Anna Chaplaincy lead in 2015.

Julia said of the service:

‘It was wonderful to welcome Jean with her husband Paul to the team in Canterbury Diocese, having seen her vision for this ministry and commitment to the spiritual care of people with dementia when I worked with her in Rochester Diocese, informed by her own mum’s experience of dementia. Jean is a member of the reference group and working group for Anna Chaplaincy in Canterbury Diocese and supports Anna Chaplains in other parishes to establish their ministry.’

Canon Jean Kerr at the lectern at St George's

St George’s is blessed with a team of Anna Chaplains and Friends who each bring extensive yet distinctive experience to ministry with older people. Jean’s husband Paul has served in parish and chaplaincy roles through a long ministry career and has a particular focus on spiritual care for veterans. He said:

‘I was in my 20’s when a veteran first began to tell me his story. He was a relative of my future brother-in-law, and though he had served in the World War II, no one in the family was interested in listening to him. Whenever we met, he would begin talking about those days. That is not the only reason I was drawn into chaplaincy, and I do not limit myself just to military veterans, but they are representative of older people who feel that no one is interested in them. I look forward to hearing the stories that have yet to be revealed.’

Ann Price has worked in several social care roles with older people, in care home and community settings, and has a particular concern for bereavement care and supporting family carers who are looking after people with dementia.

Liz Larner has a background in care home ministry and establishing church-based community activities for older people and is hoping a major focus of her Anna Chaplaincy will be visiting care homes in the town.

Bill Donaldson was in a paid role as lay pastoral minister at St George’s for 17 years before retiring. He will continue to use his training and skills in pastoral counselling to support older men in the town and would love to see Anna Chaplaincy embrace other denominations in Deal, having a background himself as a Salvation Army officer.

Mary Donaldson is a spiritual accompanier and senses there is much in this role that will help in her Anna ministry; her vocation in life is helping people to take the next step in their faith and spirituality.

James Archer coordinates St George’s weekly Wednesday morning service which draws 50–60 older people. He has experience hosting Christmas house parties at Burrswood Christian Healing Centre when he worked there; these were mainly attended by older people.

The Wednesday service provides a focus for much of the ministry with older people. Members of the congregation are a reliable prayer support for the outreach to local older people. A card was distributed to those who attended, the week before the commissioning, explaining the Anna Chaplaincy vision for Deal and Walmer which said:

‘We believe that God is calling us to spearhead a ministry under the umbrella of Anna Chaplaincy among older people in Deal and Walmer. Our vision is that all older people in Deal and Walmer will feel part of the community where they can both give and receive love, joy, peace and hope, and explore faith and spirituality. The vision is to support, encourage and equip ministry among older people across all the churches of Deal and Walmer regardless of denomination, and to work with professionals involved in the care of older people to support and enhance their provision of spiritual care for and by people of all faiths and none. The vision is one of cooperation and support, recognising and blessing the ministry of all who invite us to journey with them and accepting that some may choose not to. We are looking for people to join us to turn this vision into reality.’

The team were supported at the service by church leaders Chris Spencer and Sheila Porter. Chris spoke on the Bible passage from Luke 2 about the prophet Anna, drawing on themes of faith, hope and love in describing the calling to ministry with older people. Julia gave a presentation about Anna Chaplaincy to set the scene for the commissioning. The team each received a certificate signed by Chris and a photo ID badge. Prayers were also said for the newly commissioned team.

Later in the year, the team will speak about ministry with older people at Sunday worship and encourage others in the congregation to join the Anna Chaplaincy team.

Reflecting on the service, Julia was struck by the faith of the congregation, including many living with the challenges of bereavement and long-term health conditions:

‘A conversation with Hazel and Vi summed up the spirit in the group. Hazel was a Salvation Army officer and musician who developed the musical skills of younger people in several bands. Now confined to a wheelchair and depending on her lifelong friend and carer Vi, who also grew up in the Salvation Army, Hazel said it is hard after a lifetime of active Christian service to be limited now. Vi responded by mentioning how many people in Deal initiate conversations with them both when they are out in the town, and I sense that the warmth and kindness on both their faces draws others. ‘Jean joined the conversation at that moment and told me that Hazel and Vi pray faithfully for the ministry at St George’s. I could see that, though Hazel longs for the days of old when she was busy in God’s work in practical ways, he is continuing to work through her in building his kingdom.’

Hazel and Vi

Canon Jean’s thoughts afterwards were:

‘I have longed to see the ministry of Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends grow into the diocese of Canterbury and to see ecumenical services in every area designed for those with dementia and their carers.’

Liz said:

‘During the commissioning service, I was greatly encouraged by Julia’s introduction of Anna Chaplaincy to the Wednesday congregation, and I hope they too will recognise their own value and the contribution they can give to Anna Chaplaincy and the community of Deal, albeit in a small way.’

Mary reflected:

‘It was a very memorable service that marks a new steppingstone into the future of St George’s Wednesday fellowship.’

Debbie Thrower (pioneer of Anna Chaplaincy for BRF) adds a footnote:

‘I am especially delighted to see Anna Chaplaincy developing in this part of Kent as one of my forebears (on my father’s side) was at one time mayor of Deal, several generations back. Even further back, another ancestor of mine was a pub landlord in the town. However, records show his hot temper led to various brushes with the law, so perhaps a veil is best drawn over that aspect of my family’s history! I hope Anna Chaplaincy goes from strength to strength in Deal and Walmer.’




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