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  • Debbie Thrower

Are you a mentor? Have you got a mentor?

Updated: Oct 29


Today is National Mentoring Day (27 October 2020) and if you are someone with the role of spiritual mentor you might be interested in this new book, Mentoring Conversations: 30 topics to explore together by Tony Horsfall (BRF, 2020). It occurs to me that mentoring comes in many forms and sometimes (especially when visiting older people), I have been aware of how much an older person is teaching me.

This is echoed by Christopher Herbert’s foreword to The Anna Chaplaincy Handbook in which he recalls an older lady who had a profound impact on him:


She had lived much of her adult life in a small and beautiful valley on the edges of

Monmouthshire. Now, in her old age, she had moved to a tiny bungalow in the city of Hereford. And it was there, in a room crowded with the memories of her earlier life, that I first met her. I was a raw young curate; she was the elderly widow of a vicar. Her stories fascinated me because they linked her directly with some of the families who had featured in Francis Kilvert’s Diaries, composed in Clyro, Radnorshire in the 1860s.

One day she reached across to her cluttered coffee table and took into her wrinkled hands a small fossil, an Ammonite. ‘I want you to have this,’ she said, and with a seraphic smile gave it to me. It had no monetary value, but I still have it on my windowsill, a treasured memento of a witty and generous woman from whom I learned much.



It is a reminder to me of her Christian faith, the faith of her forebears in that remote Monmouthshire valley, and ultimately a reminder of the rolling mysteries of creation. Now that I am fast approaching the age she was when I first met her, I nevertheless continue to look back on her life with thanksgiving. I was supposedly ministering to her, but in reality she was ministering to me.

And that is partly what this book concerning Anna Chaplaincy is all about: the gifts that older people have, their needs, their richness of experience, that sense that they (we?), whatever our age, are on a journey, a pilgrimage towards God. And walking together on that road, sharing our lives, our sorrows and our joys is a deeply enriching

experience for everyone.

People who are Anna Chaplains are, as Debbie Thrower says, ‘motivated by love, reaching out in love to others on their spiritual journey, as a companion’.

The development of Anna Chaplaincy from its birthplace in Alton, Hampshire and now spreading rapidly across the UK is a story which is truly heartening. It is a signal that God’s grace continues to bubble up in unexpected places and at unexpected times. It is part of that movement of the Holy Spirit which informs and gently challenges our age.

Of course, as in all forms of chaplaincy, there is much to learn. This handbook, rooted in experience, acknowledges the need for continuous learning and development and reveals the practical steps that can and should be taken by anyone who feels called to be an Anna Chaplain. But it centres all of this in a profound set of Christian beliefs about the values, challenges and joys of old age.

This is a wise handbook and one which is to be treasured. It sees that the care of older people is part of the heart-purpose of God and that for churches to be involved in this form of ministry is to share in the healing love which Christ has for our hurting communities.

I commend it to you most warmly, with gratitude for all that has already been achieved and in the hope that this form of ministry will continue to flourish and grow in the years ahead.’

Rt Revd Dr Christopher Herbert

Find out more about The Anna Chaplaincy Handbook.



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