Unfortunately, Anna Chaplains are not immune to the financial blow this virus is inflicting on society at large. We've now heard of at least one paid Anna Chaplain who is 'on furlough' now that fundraising for the paid part-time post is on hold. She is still able to volunteer, though, and will continue her ministry among older people.
We sympathise deeply with all whose employment is affected by Covid-19.
Necessity is the mother of invention
On a brighter note, we're much cheered by news of ways in which our network is adapting to changed ways of working. As we phone all the members of the network, we're discovering all sorts of ways they're adapting their ministries despite the restrictions on visiting.
They're on the phone, emailing or posting letters and cards to those they normally visit and finding people are so appreciative of their calls and messages. Such attention really does make a difference when spending so many hours each day alone.
Staff under pressure
We’ve heard of network members setting aside certain times to pray for those who they normally visit face-to-face. One Anna Chaplain says that she prays regularly for 'protection over the doors of the care homes so that they are kept safe from coronavirus'.
'I am so glad that I have a register of names of residents and some of the staff where I visit. I am using that to pray daily for the residents and staff. Through our prayers the Lord will draw close to those vulnerable residents and remind them that Jesus loves them.'
Another Anna Chaplain was so devastated by not being able to spend her usual day in care homes that she still spends a whole day every week praying over the names of residents and thinking of certain staff under particular pressures.
'It was a difficult moment when I realised that my Anna Chaplain ministry as I had been used to offering it was to be suspended,' she said. 'I realised how close I had become to the staff and residents of the two care homes I visited on a weekly basis. Following on from that sadness, I decided I would still keep Thursday as my Anna Chaplain day when I would have both places, their staff and residents, in my thoughts and prayers throughout the day; when I would make contact with them by phone and email. My spirit immediately lifted as I knew my ministry could continue in this way.'
Some are using video-conferencing to keep in touch with their ministry teams they're part of, and video calling the care homes and speaking to Activities Coordinators, through whom they intend to do one-to-one chats with residents in future. The way digital technology is being embraced by some members of older generations is quite a phenomenon we're witnessing, as is the way ministers and other church workers are learning how to deliver their sermons and reflections online, out and about in the fresh air as well as from their studies.
One minister learnt the pitfalls of broadcasting the hard way when on camera he lent too far forward into a candle stand and caught alight! For a day or two he became an internet sensation. But I'm relieved to see that apart from a hole in his jumper no serious harm was done!
Church will be different
One Anna Chaplain believes there will be good things to come out of the present crisis. 'Church will not be the same after this, but the fact that more people will be reached than ever would have been in Sunday services through the use of new technology is quite something. It will and it should make a big difference. I think there will be a lot of changes and for the better.'
She had been struck by how upbeat the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has been despite having to close churches temporarily because of the contagion, and looks forward to the changes that will stem from this period once we have reflected on its impact.
Speaking of her own experience of lockdown, she believes there will be a dividend in terms of greater awareness of people's loneliness and vulnerability.
'In many ways I think the whole of society might have a greater empathy in future for those people for whom this isolation is not new.'
If you're finding enforced isolation tough and are concerned for the welfare of your relatives, friends and the wider world at this time, you may be interested in Mags Duggan's book God among the Ruins: Trust and transformation in difficult times (BRF, 2018).
Duggan draws on her own testing times in the past to conclude that it takes courage to hope; to stand in our confusion and grief and still to believe that 'God is not helpless among the ruins'.