Anna Chaplaincy is spreading to the Ely Diocese in East Anglia. Elizabeth Bryson was commissioned on Sunday 23 April 2023 at St Edmund’s Church Downham Market, Norfolk by Rector, Fr James Mather.
Elizabeth moved last year from Kent to her new home in Norfolk, south of King’s Lynn. Previously, she was an Anna Chaplain in Maidstone, Kent. She is now the Anna Chaplain serving Downham Market and District. Originally, Elizabeth was commissioned in Canterbury Cathedral in 2019.
At the recent service, Elizabeth preached on the set Bible readings for the third Sunday of Easter and gave information about Anna Chaplaincy, sharing her passion for the importance of leading care home church services.
We asked Elizabeth to chart some of the milestones in her journey towards Anna Chaplaincy in her new setting. She is proud to be the first Anna Chaplain in Ely Diocese:
‘I have been doing care home ministry since 2013 when we lived in Maidenhead. When I first went into a care home to help lead a service as a LLM (licensed lay minister) I had a strong sense that care home ministry was where God was calling me to serve. When we moved to Maidstone in 2017, where my husband Fr Neil was a vicar, I led services in three care homes in the parish.
‘I was pleased to meet Julia Burton-Jones and discover about Anna Chaplaincy. I was commissioned as an Anna Chaplain at Canterbury Cathedral on 22 September 2019.
‘I spoke in the Cathedral about the importance of care home ministry; saying that all care home residents are parishioners in a parish and they should be receiving spiritual care and church services.
‘My focus has been care home ministry and the house-bound former church-goers living at home. I was Anna Chaplain at St Michael & All Angels’ Maidstone.
‘In Maidstone, I coordinated care home ministry across two deaneries with 25 care homes; ensuring every care home had a church contact. In Covid, I organised the delivery of DVDs with care home services to be delivered to the care homes. During the pandemic, I led individual telephone services and Skype services for care homes. It was important for the residents to be reminded that Jesus loves them and is with them. In Maidstone, I also mentored and trained people to lead care home services, and planning services which I shared with others. I also became the Anna Chaplaincy Coordinator for the Maidstone Archdeaconry.
‘We moved to Downham Market last August and it was strange to no longer be an Anna Chaplain. It was good to read Anna Chaplaincy blogs and attended the online Gathering and Network get-togethers. I discovered the Downham Market care homes and walked by them to pray for the residents and staff; longing for when I would be able to go in and lead care home church services for them as an Anna Chaplain.
‘I am pleased that the process of establishing Anna Chaplaincy in Ely Diocese is complete as the Diocese of Ely has been granted the Head Licence Agreement for Anna Chaplaincy. I am so glad that I have now been commissioned as an Anna Chaplain to serve in Downham Market and District. This week I am meeting with the managers and activities coordinators in three Downham Market care homes to arrange to start leading services for them. I have also been asked to give a talk about Anna Chaplaincy at the next Deanery Synod Meeting and at a meeting of Downham Market Churches Together. I will talk to licensed lay ministers (LLMs) about Anna Chaplaincy on 13 May at a LLM study morning and service when I will be licensed as a licensed lay minister in Ely Diocese.
‘I care deeply that residents in care homes should be receiving spiritual care. They cannot go to church so the church needs to go to them. I hope to encourage more people to become Anna Chaplains. It is great to be part of a growing network of others who care deeply about the spiritual care of older people. I look forward to helping pioneer Anna Chaplaincy in Ely Diocese.’