• Debbie Thrower

Class of 2020 at Cliff College

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

Our latest cohort seeking a certificate in ministry among those in the older generation came from all parts of the British Isles. One student gave us an unmissable poem on what life is really like living and caring for a loved one with dementia (you can read it below).

A fully-subscribed certificate course in Ministry among Older People saw a maximum 28 people spending the week at Cliff College in Derbyshire. In fact, so many wished to attend that there was a waiting list for those who couldn't be squeezed on to the residential course taking place from Monday 24 to Friday 28 February.

Cliff College lies beneath the dramatic landscape feature – The Edge – an escarpment with views across the Dales

All weathers

Many participants are already working with older people, and a number are discerning a vocation to Anna Chaplaincy for Older People in particular. In the picturesque surroundings of the Dales, it was a week of worship and study focused on: the needs of people in the second half of life, the ageing demographic, the spirituality of ageing, improving one's listening skills and facing up to the challenges of one's own mortality. Cliff College was subject to all weathers that week – rain, snow, sleet and ice, as well as bright sunshine!

Course co-leaders, Julia Burton-Jones and Debbie Thrower

What 'great' looks like

The Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) and Cliff College are partners, with the two organisations developing important training resources together for the church and, particularly, lay leaders. This latest course was the second such certificate course to be led by me and the Anna Chaplaincy lead in Rochester and Canterbury Dioceses, Julia Burton-Jones.

There were sessions by Julia, for example, on older vocations and managing older volunteers, what 'great' looks like in ministry among those in the Third and Fourth ages of life, and how best to go about supporting people living with dementia and their carers.

A long goodbye

Student Theresa Burton kindly gave permission for us to share her own poem which she had read to us about her mother and dementia, written in December 2019:

It’s a long goodbye.

The distance between us


Both in miles and memory.

My mother tongue

Is no longer my mother’s tongue.

Her fluency has faltered.

She speaks in lost meanings

And lucky-dip vocabulary,

Mostly unaware.

She takes my hand,

Relieved to be led to the bathroom,

Roles reversed

As we toddler-talk on the toilet.

She lets me soap her hands

And pat them dry.

It’s a long goodbye.

A magnet for visitors – the nearby town of Bakewell

Our next short course at Cliff College, a weekend taster course in Ministry among Older People – the Anna Chaplaincy approach, is on 18–20 September 2020. Bookings are already being taken. For more information, click here.