Two new Anna Chaplains and an Anna Friend
There was a wonderfully festive commissioning service this week (Tuesday 17 December) with the Bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff, for two new Anna Chaplains and an Anna Friend at St John's Church, Hildenborough, in Kent. A lunch in the church centre afterwards was attended by almost 50 supporters.
The new trio were joined by Chris Thorogood in saying the words of commitment, as Chris had missed a service back in 2017 at the time when she was being commissioned as an Anna Friend in the same benefice of Tonbridge, where Sandra Chapman is now Anna Chaplain. She and Sandra are attached to different churches within the group.
New Anna Chaplain for St John's Hildenborough, Susan Trowbridge, preached at the service. The Anna Chaplaincy Lead in Rochester Diocese, Julia Burton-Jones, said: 'Sue's was a wonderful sermon – she delivered it with such conviction, it was a great rallying cry! It is a great story of how someone at 75 has rediscovered a love for ministry through Anna Chaplaincy.'
Susan is joining forces with the present Anna Friend in the parish, Julie Rhodes, whose focus is on supporting people living dementia.
Andrew Levick is a new Anna Friend working out of St Peter and St Paul Church, Seal, in Sevenoaks.
Age is esteemed by God
Susan asked the congregation, 'Do you feel old and past it? Well, I’ve got news for you. God uses people of a great age and experience who have been faithful to him throughout the years both to forthtell – that is, to comment on the behaviour either favourable or not of the people who are supposed to be worshipping God – and to foretell, prophesy – that is, to say what God is planning for the future. We have numerous examples of people who have reached the third and even fourth stages of age who were obedient to God. He used them to forthtell and to prophesy in both the Old and New Testaments. None of them said they were ever too old to serve and be used by God when they were obedient to his call.'
Sue went on to list faithful older people such as Abraham, Eli, Daniel, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, Simeon… and, of course, the prophetess Anna.
Anna, at the age of 84, who 'never left the temple, prayed and fasted night and day for the Messiah to come, now proclaims hope for everyone to hear that this child would redeem Israel. Both Simeon and Anna, because of their age, were trusted by God to introduce Jesus to both the Jews and the Gentiles. Wow!
'What is God calling you to do? Age was and still is esteemed by God. I love that word esteemed – we with the silver thatch are all esteemed by God. Those of us who have obediently served God, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us and the light of Jesus to shine through us, who have been given the gift of years must NEVER retire from serving our Lord and master.
'We have a wealth of life experience and answered prayer that we MUST pass on to our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
'I have the great joy and privilege of bringing my granddaughters to church most weeks. How wonderful it was, when my nine-year-old announced that she wants her best friend to come to church so that she could find Jesus and discover how he helps when life gets tough. She has discovered Jesus, who will be with her for the rest of her life and wants to share him with others.
'So what can we do when everything seems to be going south and bits drop off and have to be replaced?
'We have a choice: do we give up and give in to the ageing process? Or do we keep fixing our eyes on Jesus, listening to him and allowing him to give us a new lease of life as we serve him?'
New exciting ministry
'I never thought after I was widowed three years ago, had two cataracts removed, was given a replacement knee, and now getting arthritis, in other words dropping to bits, that at the age of 75, with a silver thatch, I’d be given this new exciting ministry from God. It has been the culmination of my lifetime's experience. God has been preparing me throughout the whole of my life for this new ministry.
'When Tim asked me to become pastor to the seniors, I laughed and said, “What me? I am one.” “Precisely!” Tim said.
'I really was afraid to do this. Even though I knew I could do the study and write the essays, I knew that I just could not take notes, as I have a kind of dyslexia that prevents me from being able to process more than two facts at one time.
'I told Tim that I could not possibly do this because of my dyslexia. “Nonsense.” he said. “Tell the diocese, and your tutors will give you their notes so that you don’t have to take them, you can just listen and absorb.”
'I had no excuse now but to say “ Yes!”
'I was obedient and started studying again after a gap of 25 years. This was the best thing I’ve ever done, I’ve learned so much and have enjoyed every moment of it.'
'As a result I’ve not been as happy for years. I’m really contented. I really have been given a new lease of life and found real purpose.
'God has given me this precious gift of years, for the new and exciting challenges, in my new role for him.
'What about you? We never retire as Christians. Our church really needs you. It needs your experience and wisdom of many years to pass on to those coming after us. They need our support and encouragement.
'How are you going to serve God? Listen, open your eyes and hearts to God and see what role God has just for you. You will discover a new and exciting life, a life fulfilled and full of purpose again. When you are obedient and serve God, possibly in a new role, you will receive countless blessings, more than you could ever imagine. God really needs you. Our church needs you. Amen.'
Amen indeed, Sue, and congratulations to all who were commissioned and said the words of commitment this week in Kent. May your ministries thrive in 2020 and beyond.