Anna Chaplains with social care backgrounds appointed to Anna Chaplaincy roles in Kent
Meet Caroline Ramshaw and Sally Waters in Canterbury Diocese.
This month (February 2022) Canterbury Diocese has seen the commissioning of two new Anna Chaplains on successive Sundays. Caroline Ramshaw was commissioned to the rural benefice of Kingsdown Creekside and High Downs and Sally Waters was commissioned to St Stephen’s, Canterbury.
Despite living in very different parts of the county, there is much Caroline and Sally share in common. They are both readers in the Church of England; they were part of the same Kent online Anna Chaplaincy training group with diocesan lead Julia Burton-Jones and they share a background in social care.
Caroline works for Kent County Council with older people who lack kinship networks to support them at times of transition, such as when moving to a care home, or to organise their funeral; Caroline takes on the role a next of kin would fulfil.
She was struck by the need to address spiritual needs on an occasion when she and a colleague were gathering items at the home of an older woman recently placed in a care home. Caroline noticed many signs of the woman’s Christian faith, including a bookshelf full of Bibles. She set aside a Bible to take into the care home. Her colleague was puzzled because she knew the woman was blind. Caroline knew just holding the Bible would be a comfort to the older lady.
In her Anna Chaplaincy role she will identify and respond to unmet needs in her own parish, but also ensure that her clients’ spiritual needs are understood and met throughout Kent.
A reader for more than 30 years, Sally has worked in a number of settings offering care to older people, including with the Church Army. When she moved to Canterbury, she took on the role of deputy warden with a group of almshouses, a position she held for 13 years.
As a Canterbury City councillor, Sally served as mayor and mayor’s chaplain. She is a trustee of Canterbury and District Over-60s Community Service and volunteers at a community centre where many guests are older.
At St Stephen’s, Sally is involved in Tea @ Three and the Acorn Café, where she offers a listening ear to older guests and accompanies vicar Kevin Maddy at services held at the local almshouses.
In recent years, especially through lockdown, many groups and activities that were part of Kent’s social care landscape have closed, including a club for older people in Teynham, in Caroline’s benefice. Her rector and former GP, Steve Lillicrap, reflects on the value of the club in Teynham to local people in his benefice and says that the church services he and his team held there regularly proved the most popular of all the activities offered at the club. He is looking at how the church might organise something similar to replace what has been lost since the local charity that ran the group found itself unable to continue.
Canterbury is a vibrant university city, a far cry from the villages Caroline will serve in her rural benefice, but Sally has identified unmet social needs. St Stephen’s is located in an area of Canterbury with much student housing. Tucked away between student houses are older people who can be lonely and isolated.
At Caroline’s commissioning Canon Steve spoke about the prophet Anna, saying:
‘The description of Anna’s temple residency leads one scholar to query whether she belonged to an order of widows who performed special functions in the temple. She was a devout Jew – worshipping night and day, fasting and in prayer. She was a prophet – someone who spoke about what God was saying, someone who was a foretaste of Pentecost – Luke anticipates the outpouring of God’s Spirit at Pentecost “on your sons and daughters who will prophesy” (Acts 2:17). Anna is a unique witness of who this baby, brought into the temple on this particular day, is – she is one of two witnesses who knew through God’s Spirit who Jesus was. As a witness, she was very credible because she was elderly, and there is a lesson for us all to be reminded of, that older people are key to us as followers of Jesus Christ in their witness, in their faith, as encouragers to us all.
‘Anna was part of a group that was looking towards the redemption of Jerusalem – God’s people. She was someone who lived in hope despite the suffering in the world around her. Her hope stems from her relationship with God. She shines as a light to us in her worship, prayer and fasting. Fasting was seen as a protest that something wasn’t right – the situation in the world around Anna wasn’t right, but on this day she sees God’s solution to that in the form of this baby brought into the temple – in Jesus Christ.
‘She can do so, I believe, because of her relationship of faith in the God she worships day by day. Her worship wasn’t about rule-following but about a relationship with God, that is particularly clear on this day. Anna goes on giving thanks to God and speaking about Jesus to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem, the freeing of Jerusalem. The Greek here means that her giving thanks to God and speaking about Jesus did not just happen on this one day, but that she continued to give thanks and to speak about him.
‘Anna Chaplaincy is relatively new in our lives and I am grateful for Caroline bringing it to our attention and I thank God for the privilege of being able to support Caroline in becoming an Anna Chaplain. I pray that we will continue to hear and share more of this important mission of God together.’
Caroline said on being commissioned Anna Chaplain:
I had never heard of Anna Chaplaincy and after a career working in education I decided on a change! I started working in adult social services, working primarily with those with no next of kin or family and found that many of our elderly population were isolated which had worsened since Covid! I saw an article on Anna Chaplaincy from our diocese and something drew my interest, so I found out more. I felt drawn to this ministry and on 6 February I was commissioned as an Anna Chaplain.
I feel honoured to be starting out in this ministry and hope that I can be that light of comfort in a world clouded in darkness. I have been set on this journey and hope to draw my work and my ministry closer together.
When life throws difficulties your way it often transpires they did not come your way without purpose and that actually from them a new way of service can open up. When my husband was diagnosed with dementia it was a very difficult time – there is no denying that – but that experience, together with earlier experiences of working in elderly care, gave me the impetus to explore how these could be used in God’s service.
Anna Chaplaincy seemed to be what God was calling me to and I just couldn’t wait to explore this avenue further. Having completed the training at the end of last year, I was thrilled to be commissioned on 13 February and am now eager to see where this ministry takes me within my parish and maybe beyond.