Anna Chaplaincy for uncertain times
Updated: Mar 25
Anna Chaplains and others in our national network are adapting to a fast-changing landscape in the light of the coronavirus threat. Those ministering to older people are at the forefront of bringing comfort and reassurance to those who are housebound and feeling the most isolated.
How pastoral work continues despite the advice to cease all non-essential travel and when care homes are closed to all but the most necessary of visits poses real challenges. But Anna Chaplains are already beginning a phone ministry to some and offering support by email, postcards and letters.
A picture is emerging of those who require practical help also receiving help from friends, neighbours and wider pastoral teams in communities large and small right across Britain.
‘We need to give a lot of pastoral and spiritual support to people who lose loved ones or are totally isolated during this crisis,’ said one Anna Chaplaincy network member in the midlands.
We’re asked to join in praying, for example, for all the 350-plus Time To Talk Befriending scheme members on the south coast – based in Brighton and Hove. Time To Talk Befriending has two Anna Chaplains working with them, and the charity is contacting all members ‘asking what they want and need’.
Founder and CEO of the organisation, the Anna Chaplain Emily Kenward, says: ‘The average age of our members is 80+ and most have long-term health conditions. Those we have already spoken to need emotional and practical support. But overwhelmingly, people are also responding to offers of prayer.’
Emily described how a couple from her church ‘prayed the attached prayer with us yesterday. I thought I would share it.’ Read it here (with kind permission from Ian and Christine McLean).
‘I believe by faith that God is going to use this situation for his kingdom,’ said Emily, ‘and that Time To Talk Befriending (TTTB) is part of his plan to help those who are vulnerable and at risk in our communities to come to know him.’ See more at tttb.org.uk.
Unfortunately, the Refresh and Resource day conference in Southampton on 1 April, at which former GP living with dementia, Dr Jennifer Bute, had been due to speak, has been postponed for the time being.
Many of our national network attend the annual conference, an opportunity to meet and exchange news and ideas, but not this spring. Anna Chaplaincy network member Canon Dr Erica Roberts said: ‘I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that Caraway has taken the sad decision to postpone our Refresh and Resource day in light of the evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. We have been listening carefully to the guidelines from our government, the NHS and the Church of England, and our main priority is to do what we can to protect those who are most vulnerable in our communities.
‘Please know that we are praying for you and trust that you and your families will stay well during this period and that we will all have the wisdom to know how we can connect with and support those who are isolated around us. Do let us know if you’ve had good ideas or encouraging stories to tell and we’ll post them on our website, social media and our newsletter.
‘As the future gains more clarity, we will get back in contact and update you about any further plans or dates.’
Erica leads a team of Anna Chaplains in the city under the umbrella of local charity, Caraway, set up for the purpose of expanding ministry among older people in their part of Hampshire.
Her news update ends with reassuring words of scripture:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6–7 (NIV)
Anna Friend, Kate Dando in Alton, Hampshire, told us how she is responding to the crisis: ‘Possibly the youngsters are finding support through their friends on their phones or the internet, but some of we "oldies" are making time at 4.00 pm every day just to think or pray, wherever we are, to feel we are giving and getting support from our Lord and our friends.’
‘Pillar of positive thought’
You might like to adopt a similar approach, and perhaps other Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends could suggest it to those whom they are still able to visit, explained Kate.
‘Just imagine this pillar of positive thought and prayers; it can only help us feel loved and wanted.’
National Day of Prayer
We look forward to Mothering Sunday and to the National Day of Prayer and Action this Sunday 22 March, called for by Churches Together in England. Everyone's encouraged to simultaneously place a lit candle in their window at 7.00 pm as a sign of hope.
The organisation's full statement and resources are available here. What a powerful sign a candle in each home's window would be… reclaiming the darkness and bringing Christ's light to bear on the current situation.
The Anna Chaplaincy Prayer
Finally, as we seek to maintain a sense of perspective, may I invite you to say the Anna Chaplaincy Prayer:
'Faithful God, you have promised in Christ to be with us to the end of time. Come close to those who have lived long and experienced much. Help them to continue to be faithful and, within the all-age kingdom of God, to find ways to go on giving and receiving your grace, day by day. For your glory and your kingdom. Amen'