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  • Stuart Holley

Commissioning in Canterbury Diocese

Updated: Jul 7


from left to right Hendrik Viljoen, Lynnette Rees-Styles, John Styles and Geraldine Wyant, with Preb Gillean Craig who commissioned them behind
Hendrik Viljoen, Lynnette Rees-Styles, John Styles, Geraldine Wyant, with Preb Gillean Craig who commissioned them behind

A new Anna Chaplaincy team was commissioned in Canterbury Diocese at a wonderful Anna Chaplaincy-themed service at St John the Baptist in the village of Ickham on 20 June. John Styles was commissioned as Anna Chaplain. Working with him are Anna Friends Lynnette Rees-Styles, Hendrik Viljoen, Geraldine Wyant and William Leigh-Pemberton. In a sad reflection of the times, William was told to isolate as he had been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19, so was unable to join the group for the commissioning.


Anna Chaplaincy lead for Canterbury Diocese Julia Burton-Jones was interviewed by Preb Gillean Craig before he commissioned the team. He asked what is distinctive about Anna Chaplaincy and what the difference is between being an Anna Friend and an Anna Chaplain. He also explored the qualities and training needed for Anna Chaplaincy and how theological insights set Christian ministry apart from other approaches to caring for older people and people with dementia.


Reflecting after the service, Gillean said:


‘My own experience both pastorally and from personal family members in this extremity stresses the deep pain and anger suffered by so many who live with dementia or Alzheimers, pain borne of impotence; so often being in the last place they want to be; losing their agency and being at the behest of others whom they have not chosen; of hating to find themselves reduced to the physical state of young children. An added burden is that so many of them were brought up to be grateful for services rendered, when the last thing they really feel is gratitude. I think that the crucial theological response is Our Lord’s Passion, his handing himself over into the hands of others, the all-powerful entering the state of powerlessness. Thank God that whatever state we may find ourselves in he is with us and has lived it before us. I hope that our team of Anna’s Chaplain and Friends can draw on this insight in their ministry, and that it may give them understanding and strength.’ Amen.


John said, ‘It was a truly wonderful service. We now are looking forward to getting the chaplaincy fully up and running in the future when we eventually come out of lockdown’.


We asked John to tell us about his calling to ministry with older people. This is what he said:


‘In the year 2000 I applied for and was appointed by the Foreign Office to the job of Chief Secretary and Acting Governor in the Island of St Helena (St Helena is a British Overseas in the South Atlantic).


'Shortly after arriving there, I met with Bishop John, an Anglican Bishop, in the diocese of Cape Town, South Africa. He was the Bishop of St Helena in the Cape Town diocese. I was very impressed with his wisdom and taken with the strength of his faith. I decided I would regularly attend the St Helena St Paul's Cathedral and from then on, I was hooked! Lynnette, my other half, joined me soon afterwards, and her first take on St Helena was that “God lives here!”


'It was soon afterwards that the Bishop made me a lay minister, and together with Lynnette and the Bishop, we would regularly visit the isolated and elderly in the mountains of St Helena, giving home Communion and prayers. Immediately I felt God’s strong presence and I knew what I must do in supporting elderly people. So, this continued after I retired in 2005, but we had to permanently leave St Helena in 2015 due to health problems requiring treatment in the UK. We stayed in the UK and continued to worship in Ickham, near Canterbury, and I was formally licensed as a Reader in the diocese in April 2019.


'I subsequently picked up on the role of the Anna Chaplaincy during the annual Readers' event in Canterbury Cathedral in September 2019 and following research, I decided that the chaplaincy role was for me and fitted into my calling. I spoke with Nigel Collins, our warden of readers in Canterbury Diocese, who was very helpful, and he put me in touch with Julia Burton-Jones. Both Lynnette and I attended her course in autumn 2020 (delivered via Zoom because of Covid restrictions), which was very well put together, and now the time has come to be commissioned on 20 June 2021 as an Anna Chaplain, together with four Anna Friends including Lynnette.’


Julia said, ‘It was wonderful joining John and his team for this very special celebration of their ministry. John’s gentle leadership, wisdom and warmth will provide the team with the inspiration they need to continue reaching out to older people in their community. It was a joy having John and Lynnette on the very first online Anna Chaplaincy training course which was piloted with Sally Rees, Anna Chaplaincy lead for Wales. Their feedback helped us develop the training and assured us we were on the right track.


Canon Jean Kerr, Anna Chaplaincy working group member for Canterbury Diocese, attended the service with her husband Revd Paul to support the team. Before her retirement from leading Mission and Community Engagement, Jean introduced Anna Chaplaincy in Rochester Diocese and was my line manager, so it is wonderful having her at the service. She continues to advocate passionately for Anna Chaplaincy and Jean and Paul are planning to introduce it in Deal where they now live, joining the next online training course for Kent which starts in September with others from their parish, St George’s, who are called to ministry with older people. The team in Canterbury Diocese is growing – long may this continue!

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