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  • Stuart Holley

Anna Chaplaincy Commissioning in Rochester Diocese


An event was held in Rochester Diocese on 22 June where Bishop James Langstaff commissioned Jenny Hopkins as Anna Chaplain for Hadlow. Jenny had been given a lovely angel by a member of the local knitting group she supports, to mark the occasion of her taking on a new role in the local community.


Vicar of Hadlow, Rev Paul White, said: ‘I am delighted to see Jenny commissioned as an Anna Chaplain today; I have no doubt that Jenny is called to this important ministry, and this will be a blessing not only to that calling but to the life of St Mary's Hadlow and to the older people in our community. In December 2019 we held a dementia-friendly nativity service, and this confirmed for me that this should be part of our ministry, and, at the same time, Jenny expressed a desire to train in this chaplaincy. I suspect God was working! Jenny already has plans for developing this ministry and I look forward to working with her to see this develop further.’


Introducing herself, Jenny says: ‘I have been visiting people for some years through my church, eventually joining the Home Communion team. I found it a great privilege to visit people in their homes, getting to know them & hearing their life stories.Knowing that some older people do not get the chance to go away I started Holiday at Home with the support of the Vicar and the PCC.I am also involved in the community of Hadlow, joining the Pop In group that meets once a week. When my Vicar suggested I explore Anna Chaplaincy I agreed. Following training and support from Julia Burton-Jones, Anna Chaplaincy lead for Rochester Diocese, I look forward to supporting the older members of Hadlow.’


At the same event, Bishop James also commissioned six Anna Chaplains into a new archdeaconry role, a first for Anna Chaplaincy. For each of the three archdeaconries in the Diocese of Rochester, there are now two Anna Chaplaincy leads who work alongside the diocesan deputy wardens of lay ministry. Rev Anne Bourne and Jane Sankey are leads for Tonbridge Archdeaconry, Rev Elizabeth Robertson and Margaret Hollands for Rochester Archdeaconry, and Diana Pattison and Rev Sophie Sutherland for Bromley and Bexley Archdeaconry. Julia Burton-Jones, diocesan Anna Chaplaincy lead, thanked the new team for taking on this new responsibility and said they have already made an impact in their archdeaconries in raising awareness of Anna Chaplaincy and supporting their local teams.


Sophie said of the new role: I'm really looking forward to building on my own experiences of working as an Anna Chaplain in central Bromley to encourage others who are being called to this precious work across the Archdeaconry of Bromley and Bexley. I hope that together we can, as Debbie Thrower puts it, ‘plant a flag’ to signal that ‘older people matter' in our boroughs.’


Diana reflected: ‘I am looking forward to developing ways of expanding the work of Anna Chaplaincy by encouraging those with a heart for older people to explore the ministry. I also hope that we can increase the awareness in our churches of the importance of deepening spirituality in later life. ‘


Margaret expressed her hopes for the new role: As well as continuing my role as an Anna Chaplain, I also see this role as offering pastoral and practical support to other Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends as well as raising awareness of Anna Chaplaincy within our parishes.


And Jane said: ‘All our communities are different, but there is great benefit in sharing ideas and experiences with others in different places who have chosen this ministry to share what we are discovering and by encouraging one another as yet more volunteers feel called to be part of this important ministry of spiritual care in later life.’


Anne spoke of the impact of the pandemic on the lives of older people and how Anna Chaplaincy is at the forefront of encouraging churches to respond to needs that have become more visible and pressing during Covid-19.


Bishop James was thanked for his unwavering support for Anna Chaplaincy in Rochester Diocese since 2015. He retires as diocesan bishop in July and everyone wished him well as he begins a new chapter in his life and ministry. Diocesan representatives, relatives and friends, enjoyed tea, coffee and cakes in a marquee in the beautiful gardens of Bishopscourt, the home of Bishop James in Rochester.

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