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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

‘Cathedral of the sea’ honours chaplaincy

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Dr Jonathan Frost with special guests at the service, Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire Nigel Atkinson and his wife Christine.

Portsmouth Cathedral installed two new chaplains as canons on Sunday 14 May. The ‘Cathedral of the sea’ welcomed the chaplain of the fleet, the Ven Andrew Hillier, as an honorary canon, and Anna Chaplaincy pioneer, Debbie Thrower, as a canon of honour.

Royal Navy Chaplain of the Fleet, Andrew Hillier (Photo credit:

In his sermon, the bishop said he was delighted to welcome Andrew to be a canon in the ‘Cathedral of the sea’, where prayers are said daily ‘for all who go down to the sea in ships’. He praised him for ‘living the life of Jesus’ and being an example to others.

Bishop Jonathan and Debbie Thrower after the service which saw her installed as a canon of honour.

The bishop also described how much had been achieved through Anna Chaplaincy since 2010. He called it a ‘beautiful movement’ which ‘calls forth the wisdom and integrity of older people, inspiring them to explore their faith in ways that are unimaginable even to themselves.’

He also welcomed the many ‘friends’ of Anna Chaplaincy, also present in the congregation on Sunday, as he described some of the fruits resulting from his intention, from the very start of his ministry, to see ‘Anna Chaplaincy available in every parish in the diocese.’

Andrew Hillier, as an honorary canon, joins the Cathedral’s College of Canons, and Debbie Thrower’s honorary role is for a term of five years. ‘It is a way we can spot people from the arts and other areas of life – writers, preachers and so on and invite them to be part of the life and work here’, said Bishop Jonathan.

Sitting alongside Debbie was Canon Angela Tilby, Church Times columnist, a regular contributor to BBC Radio Four’s Thought for the Day, who also teaches and lectures on church history and theology. Angela Tilby became a canon of honour in Portsmouth in 2019.

Special guests at the service of Choral Evensong were the Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson and his wife Christine, as well as numerous family and friends of the new canons. Karen Laister, BRF’s head of marketing and communications, travelled from Oxfordshire to attend the service. Debbie has been a BRF staff member since 2014 when the charity took on the ministry to begin scaling it up nationally. Debbie may have been the first Anna Chaplain, but the network is now getting on for 300-strong, all over the country, thanks to BRF and, of course, with many more volunteer Anna Friends UK-wide, too.

Debbie said afterwards:

‘It was wonderful to see Coleen (Jackson) and Sam (Martell) there who have done so much to develop Anna Chaplaincy in south Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, and to be supported in the pews by so many of the other Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends who have been trained and commissioned in the past year. Bishop Jonathan told me how pleased he was to see as many as 60 people had been trained so far, locally, and there are more to come.’




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