Anna Chaplaincy at work in the countryside
Updated: Oct 14
While there are Anna Chaplains working in big cities, in multicultural contexts, this month the spotlight's been turned on those less obvious Anna Chaplains working in rural areas.
The magazine Country Way, from the Arthur Rank Centre – Confident Rural Christians – asked BRF's Eley McAinsh to showcase examples of Anna Chaplaincy that's happening more quietly, 'out in the sticks.'
Eley explained how, 'In normal times being an Anna Chaplain involves visiting older people wherever they may be living, whether in residential and nursing homes, sheltered housing, retirement complexes or private homes, meeting one-to-one, taking services and home communion, drinking tea, praying, making music or simply holding someone’s hand in companionable silence.
'But for Anna Chaplains, as for everyone else, these have been far from normal times and they haven’t been able to go into care homes or make home visits for months.'
‘I’ve hated it!’ says Powys-based Sally Rees, lead Anna Chaplain for Wales: ‘But I’m a lot calmer now than at the beginning. For the first few weeks I was just so anxious about the people I couldn’t get to.’
So how have Anna Chaplains responded to lockdown? What challenges have they faced, particularly in rural areas? And what have they learned to take forward into life beyond lockdown?
Former vet, the Revd Nicky Smallwood, is a part-time Anna Chaplain in a rural benefice in Hampshire, where she has built a team of six volunteer helpers known as Anna Friends.
When Nicky’s usual Anna Chaplaincy activities – including playing the guitar and singing with care home residents in their rooms – became impossible, she turned to technology like everyone else, but found low tech letters and DVDs of services to be just as important in the effort to keep everyone connected.
‘Each Anna Friend has a list of 6-7 people they write to each week and one of them puts our church services onto DVD for the care homes. They’re thrilled to have them. It seems to be easier than having to try to access something online.’