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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Forging ahead in Northumberland

The north-east now has the largest concentration of Anna Chaplains for Older People anywhere in the country. Sunday 2 February saw the commissioning of no fewer than 34 Anna Chaplains in Morpeth by the Bishop of Berwick, taking the total number of Anna Chaplains, and those in equivalent roles, to 141 nationally!


The commissioning service could not have been more timely, as we celebrated our tenth anniversary this weekend at the feast of Candlemas. This ministry is, of course, named after Anna who appears with Simeon in Luke’s gospel, both of whom are good role models of faithful elderly people commemorated at this time of year.

Anna Chaplaincy began in Alton, Hampshire, in 2010. Four years later, having developed the model in the small market town, I joined the staff of The Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), who have been expanding this way of offering spiritual support to men and women in their later years, and their carers, right across the UK since 2014.

Prophetic sign

Sunday’s commissioning service in Morpeth, conducted by the Right Revd Mark Tanner, coincided with Anna Chaplaincy’s tenth anniversary celebrations at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. The Dean, The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, preaching at a special Candlemas carol service marking the anniversary spelled out the reasons he believes ‘Anna Chaplaincy to be a profound, prescient and prophetic sign for our age. Isolation, alienation and loneliness are some of the biggest challenges we face in our age. Despite our highly ‘networked society’, many find – for a variety of reasons – that they are more distant then ever from their neighbours, relatives and any immediate sources of support. The impact of this on our social well-being, and on people’s health in general, is a growing concern.’

You may read his full address here.

Somerset and Kent

I announced to the congregation news of the Morpeth Anna Chaplaincy - and the fact there are now more Anna Chaplains in Northumbria, the city of Newcastle itself and in County Durham, than in any other region. I added that, simultaneously, another Anna Chaplain was being commissioned at the other end of the country, in Wiveliscombe, Somerset, and that yet another had been commissioned in Tunbridge Wells, in Kent, the previous Sunday by the Bishop of Tonbridge.

Different denominations

It’s largely thanks to the work of Readers, Licensed Lay Ministers, in Newcastle Diocese, and other lay people that Anna Chaplaincy is now flourishing in the north-east; with Anna Chaplains from a number of different denominations represented too - Methodists, Baptists and others, as well as Anglicans - all coming forward, often following training courses in the importance of spiritual care in one’s later years.

Lay vocational pathway

There is now a lay vocational pathway in Newcastle Diocese, making it more straightforward for people to apply to become Anna Chaplains within their local churches. We are thrilled to see Anna Chaplaincy burgeoning in this way and especially through groundbreaking lay vocational pathways such as that in Newcastle and in the Rochester and Canterbury Dioceses. We hope other dioceses and church groupings will follow their lead, because our vision is to have an Anna Chaplain in every small to medium-sized community in the land.



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