‘What you said was a real eye opener’, declared a first-year ordinand at St Mellitus Nottingham, writes Debbie Thrower, pioneer of Anna Chaplaincy.
Originally from Jamaica, the student said she was so accustomed to the extended family taking care of the needs of older relatives, she wasn’t prepared for some of the statistics and points of view she’d heard in the lecture.
I was on the road for two days this week delivering the talks, first, at St Mellitus, London, and the next day at their East Midlands branch in Nottingham. ‘Discipling the mature’ was the title to work on and I expanded on different aspects of the spirituality of ageing (including for those living with dementia) and some of the ways in which Anna Chaplains are meeting people’s needs, generally, for emotional and spiritual support.
In London, staff lecturer Jane Williams introduced me to the class of 2023. Jane and I are contemporaries going back to school days we shared together in north Devon. It was interesting to hear from ordinands, many of whose churches buck the national church attendance trends and are mainly populated by young people and families with small children.
This is the second year running that I have been able to meet and talk with students in this way. This year there were more than 100 in the different classes.
Some are mature students on the Caleb stream which welcomes older applicants to train to be priests or deacons. It is a one-year pathway for ordained ministry in the Church of England, designed specifically for mature and experienced lay leaders.
One or two on the Caleb stream – particularly someone whose heart had always been to become a deacon – expressed an interest in perhaps becoming an Anna Chaplain after their training.
Each successive year I go to St Mellitus it’s really gratifying to see more and more people who have either already heard about Anna Chaplaincy or, indeed, come from churches which have an Anna Chaplain up and running, ministering in their community.
Several months ago, as the academic year was being planned, I was asked to come back to both London and Nottingham next year. So I look forward very much to meeting the two cohorts across London and the East Midlands for 2024!