It's always fascinating to see the various routes people have taken to become Anna Chaplains. Let me introduce you to some of the Anna Chaplains who have begun working in and around Newcastle and Durham.
Pamela is a retired gynaecologist living with her husband in Hexham, Northumberland. She has been a Reader (or Anglican licensed lay minister, LLM) since 2012, based at St John Lee Parish just outside Hexham. After her commissioning with others at Newcastle Cathedral, she said she was ‘looking forward to working with ecumenical colleagues in the town in residential and church situations'.
Margaret has been a Reader in the Church of England for twelve years. She is also a member of the Mothers' Union and a Dementia Friends Champion.
‘Over the past few years, these positions have led me to work increasing with people of the older generation in a variety of situations, both through the church and with other organisations – and this despite the fact that my career was in primary education,’ she said.
‘Our church is in the process of becoming part of a wider benefice, so I am looking forward to meeting and working with a whole new group of "older" people!’
Karen Abbott is also a Reader and has been part of the Durham North team since September 2009. ‘I attended an Anna Chaplaincy day conference in Newcastle (in March 2016) while doing some research as part of my degree studies in one of the care homes in which I lead monthly Holy Communion services.
‘I had visited my own mum in a care home for more than ten years and was aware of how difficult it is to make the decision for someone to move into a care home. I was interested in finding out how a church might best affirm the identity, spirituality and well-being of elderly residents in a care home.
‘I was delighted, later, to be given the opportunity to attend a Spiritual Care course in Newcastle and now hope to be able to offer it to some students in a college with whom my parish has developed links.
‘I am retired from full-time teaching but still work part-time. I am particularly keen to develop opportunities for the elderly and young people to learn from each other as well as supporting people through grief and loss.’
A retired teacher, Joan is also a retired licensed lay minister, or reader, with the Bishop’s permission to officiate at St George’s Church, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Joan explained how she has been widowed for 16 years. ‘I have an adopted son and daughter (now both grown up) and a gorgeous 22-month-old granddaughter. I also have a gorgeous Bassett Hound called Flossie.
'I feel as if I have been on a journey towards Anna Chaplaincy for the past 30 years, since I heard God’s call to me. It was as I reflected on the scripture, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:37–38, NKJV), that God spoke into me that the fields to be harvested were, indeed, the many residential care homes in Jesmond.
‘My first response, after a time of being afraid to respond, was to take my keyboard into a care home and simply play well-known hymns. Often, I would see the residents singing quietly to themselves, with tears falling. Since then, I have developed a ministry of taking Home Communion regularly to two care homes, and for a time introduced what I called "Sacred Space", where we reflected on the lives we had known and what had given them meaning.
‘As an Anna Chaplain, I hope to build on what I have already established and to offer spiritual care to members of my congregation, including opportunities for quiet reflection in our Lady Chapel, as well as (when the sun shines and the weather warms) in our Garden of Remembrance. I have a deep interest in the spirituality of dementia and am part of a group working to create a dementia-friendly Jesmond.’
Lynda has worshipped at St James’ Church, Riding Mill, for the past 20 years. She explained how in 1980, 'when I lived with my family in Ripon Diocese, I began pastoral work in the parish and community – visiting the sick and elderly in their homes and in hospital and participating in and leading worship in the parish care and nursing homes. I have continued to serve in this way ever since.
‘I am chairman of our church Pastoral Care team, a member of the Safeguarding Group and from 2007 have had the bishop’s permission to administer Holy Communion to the sick and housebound in the parish. We also visit a large private nursing and dementia care home in the village, listening to and supporting the residents and leading a monthly Communion service.
'For the past nine years, I have facilitated at a weekly baby-and-toddler group and have witnessed the nurture and development of the very young and their families, alongside caring and supporting the elderly and infirm in the parish – ministering to the whole family.
‘It has been a great privilege and joy to serve our village and church community in this way and, God willing, I hope to continue in the pastoral care of the elderly and the dying in the years to come as an Anna Chaplain.’