First Anna Chaplain for Malvern
We are so pleased to see Eileen Tomlin commissioned as an Anna Chaplain by her vicar, the Revd Phillip Johnson, during the morning Eucharist, at St Matthias’ Church in Malvern Link in Worcestershire, last Sunday (13 September 2020).
We asked Eileen to tell us a little about what had led her to this point:
I was born and brought up in Malvern, Worcestershire, and I still live in the same area where I grew up. When I took early retirement from teaching, I started to visit some of the older people in our parish and in care homes, and to take services in a sheltered housing complex.
In 2005 I was admitted as a Licensed Lay Minister (Reader) in the Church of England. Due to my experience with older people, and having been a carer for several family members, I felt called to a ministry with older people. As I know a great many people in the community, it’s natural that I visit them, and continue to visit them when they are ill or have to go into hospital or a care home, and consequently I support them towards the end of their lives and ultimately take their funerals. In non-Covid times, I visit people in most of the care homes in Malvern and lead services in several of them.
My ministry is in the parish of Malvern Link with Cowleigh where we have three church buildings and, over recent years, we have brought together three congregations to make one. I have endeavoured to get to know everyone from all three churches, and I am concerned for their well-being. During the coronavirus lockdown I have led the pastoral group keeping in touch with all the parishioners as well as other people in the community, by phone, having a chat, which seems to be much-appreciated, and checking that they are well and have the supplies they need.
When I first heard about Anna Chaplaincy I felt it was a very positive initiative, in providing a support network for those who work with older people and enabling them to share ideas and problems. Helping older people to maintain contact with the church and encouraging them to talk about their beliefs is so important and also rewarding and humbling. To have the support of an Anna Chaplain will, I hope, encourage the carers who are busy and don’t always have the time or expertise to support people in care homes in their spiritual lives. Having an Anna Chaplaincy project in Malvern will raise the profile of the care homes in our area, as they can feature it in their prospectus and be assured of spiritual support for any of their residents.
I also love working with children and have had a very good relationship with our church school, as well as being deeply committed to Girl Guiding, so I hope this will prevent me becoming ‘old before my time’!
As a footnote to this story, I'm personally delighted to welcome Eileen to the Anna Chaplaincy network, as my parents-in-law lived in and around the Malvern area throughout their married life. It is a proud moment to see Anna Chaplaincy developing in this part of the country which was their home in to their own old age. Gordon and Daphne Thompson are much loved and missed. I hope Eileen's work continues to bring comfort and connection to people who may not have family close at hand and, indeed, to the carers – relatives and professionals – who also need spiritual care and support themselves.