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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

First Anna Chaplain for Cornwall

View towards Bodmin moor

We are delighted that John Tootell has been commissioned this week as an Anna Chaplain in Cornwall. It is the second time he has become an Anna Chaplain; first in Kent and now in his chosen county for his retirement. Far from hanging up his boots though, John will be doing all he can to pursue ministry among older people in his part of Cornwall.

John used to run his own electrical engineering business, and describes how he felt called to this ministry after a long period of ill health in 2013. 'I then started to pray for guidance from God, and attended two retreats, "Living with Change" and "Living with Chronic Ill Health" but I was still feeling lost.

I started to walk up the road to St Edmund's Church, Temple Hill, Dartford to attend morning prayers to help me get back into some sort of routine, but more importantly to continue to seek God's guidance on what His plans for me were. After having a few chats with the incumbent at St Mary's and St Edmunds churches and also the curate at St Edmund's, I joined St Mary's PCC and Pastoral Care Team.

I then completed the Alzheimer's Society's Dementia Friends and Dementia Champions training. This gave me a better understanding of dementia as my mother had died in a nursing home with this in 1997. In February 2014 I attended an "It's Your Calling" and in April and May the "Introduction to Healing and Wholeness" course.

While on a visit to see my sister in Cornwall I attended a Dementia Awareness Day with her, run by Truro Cathedral and the Truro Methodist church, where I learnt a great deal about what the church was doing to help those living with dementia. The more I discovered the more I felt that God was leading me down the right path. The following day my sister and I went to a Memory Friendly Worship service in Wadebridge.

On returning from Cornwall, I was introduced to Julia Burton-Jones and joined her as a member of the Rochester Diocese Steering Committee. I also was involved from the outset in assisting the Alzheimer's and Dementia Supports Services set up their Safe Harbour Hub in Gravesend.

I was commissioned as an Anna Chaplain on 11th April 2017 by Bishop James of Rochester. I then became the lead Anna Chaplain for Dartford, Gravesend and Swanley. I set up and ran a Memory Cafe based on table top games at St Edmund's Church, Temple Hill, Dartford.

Julia Burton-Jones speaking at the first commissionings of Anna Chaplains in Kent in 2017 - John Tootell is fourth from the left

My wife and I moved down to Cornwall in July 2018 and after viewing many properties we finally settled in St Cleer near Liskeard. The local church in the village is St Clarus and is one of six churches in the St Cleer Tribute Cluster which is led by the Revd Becca Bell .

John Tootell

My ministry as an Anna Chaplain has always been at the forefront of my heart being continually guided by God to do his work. Cornwall has a very good network for Memory Cafes and support for people living with dementia.

I was advised to complete the Local Pastoral Ministry course and redo all the Safeguarding courses. I have also completed an online prayer course, Foundations in Christian Ministry and the new Anna Chaplaincy course run by Julia. Fortunately, during this time, I have also met some wonderful, encouraging and helpful people'.

As his commissioning service approached, John said 'I am so looking forward to being re-commissioned as an Anna Chaplain by the Revd Kelly Betteridge, Archdeacon of Bodmin. Then, hopefully, I can really start doing God's work'.




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