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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Fancy a weekend in the Peaks to change your thinking on ageing?

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

Learn about Anna Chaplaincy on a short course from the pioneer behind it… and you may see your own older age in a whole new light.

Hear from the very first Anna Chaplain about this way of supporting people spiritually in their later years. Debbie Thrower is again leading a weekend short-course on ministry among older people at Cliff College in the beautiful Derbyshire Peak District. The dates are 13–15 January 2023.

'It is a bargain weekend away, as full board and accommodation for residential course participants is just £190 each,'* she explains. 'That's for full board from Friday afternoon through to Sunday lunchtime. Comfortable accommodation lies adjacent to the hills for which the area is justifiably renowned. There's some space in the timetable for some relaxing walks in the local countryside or for you to "sit and stare".'

Debbie has put together a carefully-planned set of sessions which take people through what's involved in Anna Chaplaincy; its origins – inspired by the widow Anna who appears with Simeon in Luke's gospel – and its practical applications. This way of helping people navigate the choppy waters of growing old in the 21st century draws on her practical experience of being a chaplain for older people for the last twelve years and the combined expertise of a network that's now more than 250-strong.

The Anna Chaplaincy team is led by Debbie as the pioneer of the model. BRF is helping scale up the approach nationally, thanks to the core team around Debbie. The team has built up a considerable reputation for expertise in the areas of the spirituality of ageing; supporting people living with dementia and their carers; sensitive care of those contending with loss and grief; and helping in preparing people to face the end of life.

'Many of the past students of this course have gone on to become Anna Chaplains or Anna Friends themselves, and they've come from many different parts of the country', says Debbie. 'We have had people from Canada travel over for it as well. All participants have returned home with a heightened awareness of their own spiritual journey of ageing and of the opportunities to keep on growing spiritually in later life.'

The class of 2022

'Men and women can become Anna Chaplains and age is no bar', she adds. 'Some who attend have been involved in ministry among the so-called third- and fourth-agers for years but have been ploughing a rather lonely furrow. This course gives them a chance to meet others engaged in similar work which is often voluntary.

'There is a widespread tendency to overlook just how important pastoral care is for people post-retirement and for those who are increasingly frail and living in sheltered accommodation or in residential care. There is a lot of generous sharing of ideas and a lot of laughter and convivial time together along the way!' she says.

Find out more about the short course which has been offered at Cliff for several years now. The first one, post the Covid lockdowns, was held in February this year. 'Perhaps your church might even help fund you to attend if you already are involved in pastoral care in your parish or local area?

You are bound to go back with lots of fresh resources and ideas to reanimate ministry among older people in your home context?'

*'An introduction to ministry among older people': The basic cost of £145 includes all course materials, support and meals throughout your stay. Accommodation and breakfast at Cliff College for the duration of the course cost an additional £45; this can be booked separately following your confirmed course booking.

Attractions surrounding Cliff College include Chatsworth House, The Edge escarpment attracting ramblers and BMX bikers and the charming town of Bakewell; home of the all-too deliciously tempting sweetmeats... Bakewell Tarts!



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