Six months after becoming Alton's new Anna Chaplain, Kate Powell has gathered together a significant team of a dozen or so Anna Friends to help her. The existing small team has been joined by new recruits who also volunteer to offer spiritual support in the Hampshire market town and surrounding villages.
On the evening of Sunday 18 September, I joined them (writes Debbie Thrower, pioneer of Anna Chaplaincy and the original Anna Chaplain in Alton, which is the wellspring of the movement), for a beautiful service of Evensong at the Church of the Holy Rood in Holybourne.
Kate spoke about her work and key objectives; first to 'be a chaplain', to visit individuals offering spiritual support, to become a familiar presence at clubs and groups where older meet, growing her team of volunteers and publicising the work of Anna Chaplaincy in the local papers.
The town's Methodist minister, Revd Philip Simpkins, conducted the commissioning of the Anna Friends during the service at which the vicar of Alton, Revd Andrew Micklefield presided. The Anna ministry takes place under the auspices of the Greater Alton Project, GAP, which was formed through a covenant signing between Anglicans and Methodists locally more than twelve years ago.
The eleven-strong team of Anna Friends now includes Joyce Digges, Ruth Randall, Julia Poole, Kitty Stovold, Jenny Thompson, Jennie Marlow, Lyn Baines, Sarah Neish, Sarah Bankhead, Becky Shaylor and Penelope Kennedy.
As she welcomed each of them, Kate repeated a prayer said at her own commissioning earlier this year:
‘May her hands be ready to do your work. May her eyes be open to recognise those in need. May her ears hear soft-spoken words of pain and sorrow. May her voice speak of healing and peace. May her feet walk the extra mile with those who falter. May she always be aware of your presence guiding her and your loving protection around her in all that she does. Amen’
Kate urged any men who would like to volunteer to join them… to come forward. Over celebratory drinks afterwards, three more people expressed an interest in joining their ranks including one man. So watch this space!