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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Anna Chaplaincy in a nutshell – read BRF's chair of trustees' 'take' on what we offer

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

Chair of BRF trustees Colin Fletcher when he was bishop of Dorchester at the commissioning of Anna Chaplain Gill Thompson in the Ridgeway Benefice , South Oxfordshire.

In recent months, Right Revd Colin Fletcher, retired bishop of Dorchester and chair of BRF trustees, has also taken on the chairmanship of the Retired Clergy Association. One of his first tasks was writing an article for the association's autumn 2022 newsletter all about Anna Chaplaincy!

As you'll see, he regards Anna Chaplaincy as a retirement role which may appeal to many clergy who have stepped down from full-time ministry.

That is his prayer – that many more retired ministers will return to their pastoral roots in this way.

You can read the article below:

Anna Chaplaincy – A Retirement Ministry

In his first Presidential Address to the Portsmouth Diocesan Synod, Bishop Jonathan Frost recently said this ...

'The vision I want to offer is a diocese where everyone belongs, (both) older and younger.'

After highlighting the needs of young people and young adults, he went on to say, 'Anna Chaplaincy is a beautiful, growing movement to develop the spirituality of older people. It is based on the ministry of Anna, who saw the infant Jesus in the Temple and praised God for the Messiah. It helps to show the value of the older generation, and gives lay pastors authority to visit people in their own homes and minister to them.'

Those who read this newsletter regularly may well remember the article by Julia Burton-Jones (a member of Anna Chaplaincy's four-strong central team) written two years ago in which she outlined how some Anna Chaplains in the Rochester Diocese had developed a particular expertise in ministering to, and with, those with dementia. But Anna Chaplaincy is by no means confined to that group of people. Nor, come to that, is it exclusively a lay vocation as an increasing number of clergy and ministers are becoming Anna Chaplains – many of whom are 'retired'.

My own involvement has come about as the chair of BRF's trustees with its ministries like Parenting for Faith, Living Faith, Messy Church and, of course, Anna Chaplaincy – all of which we have the privilege of supporting and to some extent funding.

Like BRF itself, Anna Chaplaincy began life as a small acorn, and today it has already grown into a strong sapling, if not yet a mighty oak.

In 2010 Debbie Thrower, a lay reader in Alton, Hampshire, and better known, perhaps, as a TV presenter, became the first Anna Chaplain, a name she invented herself. Like others, she had spotted the need of older people, and those who surrounded them, and whether or not they had a specific Christian Faith, to receive spiritual and emotional support at this time in their lives. The name 'Anna' means grace, and Anna Chaplaincy is a gracious offering from the local church to its community.

She was appointed to do just that in Alton but her vision grew to be far larger than that. She longed to see 'an Anna Chaplain in every small - and medium-sized community in the country, and for the Anna Chaplain name to become synonymous with spiritual care for older people.'

Helping to realise that vision was where BRF ministries became involved, with its strong track record of nurturing initiatives over the past hundred years, initially with its Bible reading notes and its publishing arm (today the ministry of Living Faith) and, more recently with Parenting for Faith and Messy Church.

Today, as I say, we are seeing a very encouraging growth in the number of Anna Chaplains (currently 250 plus) and the movement is spreading rapidly both across this country and beyond. It benefits from a high degree of subsidiarity grounded in a number of key principles. Whilst there is a small central team providing training and support, all Anna Chaplains have to be accredited, authorised, and accountable to their local church or group of churches. They need to be commissioned after appropriate training (including safeguarding) and to have an enhanced DBS check as, after all, they can find themselves ministering to some quite vulnerable people.

They need to have a heart for pastoral ministry, be good listeners and have a passion to share God's love with people who can often feel that society is passing them by. Very often too they will be called upon to lead appropriate liturgies of one kind and another.

All of which seems to me to describe exactly what drew many of us to offer for ordained ministry in the first place.

Hence my question at the start of this article, 'Anna Chaplaincy – A Retirement Ministry?' And my prayer that many more retired clergy will feel led to join in.




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