We’ve noticed a growing trend for Anna Friends gaining the confidence to step up and become Anna Chaplains, and so take on a more strategic leadership role in their communities. Jennie Spalding is a fine example of this. Last Sunday (23 January 2022) she was commissioned as an Anna Chaplain in Gillingham, Kent, where she had previously been an Anna Friend.
A service on ‘Everyday Faith’ at St Matthew’s Church in the South Gillingham Benefice in Kent was an opportunity to celebrate the support given to older people in the parish by many in paid, voluntary and family caring roles, and to commission Jennie Spalding as Anna Chaplain.
Jennie’s lay ministry journey began in 2009 when she was authorised as a pastoral assistant. In 2017, she transferred to licensed lay ministry with authorisation for conducting funerals, and also became an Anna Friend in the first cohort commissioned by Bishop James Langstaff in Rochester Diocese. Five years later, and having recently retired from paid work, she felt the time was right to move from being an Anna Friend to an Anna Chaplain.
Reflecting on the development of Jennie’s ministry after her commissioning as Anna Chaplain, Karen Senior, warden of lay ministry in Rochester Diocese and also licensed reader in South Gillingham, said, ‘vocation is often a growing sense of call – it’s not static.’
In her Anna Friend role, Jennie has been involved in visiting older people in their own homes and supporting a monthly dementia-friendly service which was launched at St Matthew’s Church in 2016, following a successful dementia information day. She opted to take the Anna Chaplaincy module within the licensed lay ministry training course offered by Rochester Diocese, delivered by Anna Chaplaincy Lead Julia Burton-Jones.
More recently, benefice Anna Friend Maureen Cannon worked with the local charity for carers (Carers First) to establish a regular drop-in coffee morning for carers held at a garden centre in the town. The carers coffee morning has begun to meet again post-lockdown and is proving as popular as ever with local carers, as an opportunity to meet and share with others who understand the daily challenges they face and talk to local health and care professionals who can ensure they receive the support they need.
The bishop of Tonbridge, Simon Burton-Jones, commissioned Jennie in the context of a service affirming the congregation in their lives during the week, in paid work, volunteering and supporting friends and family. He invited anyone who would like to be anointed to come forward and many in the congregation did so, receiving a prayer of blessing and being anointed.
After commissioning Jennie, he invited everyone in the congregation with a role supporting older people to stand for a blessing prayer – a large number rose to their feet, showing how many across the benefice have an active role coming alongside those in later life.
Jennie was supported by diocesan Anna Chaplaincy lead Julia Burton-Jones and archdeaconry lead for Anna Chaplaincy Margaret Hollands. Julia gave an overview of Anna Chaplaincy and presented Jennie to be commissioned. Margaret gave Jennie her badge and certificate after she had been commissioned. Also in the congregation was Pauline Jackson, Anna Friend from St Mark’s Gillingham and member of the Anna Chaplaincy hub for Medway which meets for mutual support and learning four times a year, under the leadership of Margaret and Julia.
Rector for South Gillingham, Canon Brian Senior, was delighted to see Jennie commissioned, saying she is flourishing in her Anna ministry. He is looking forward to working with her as she develops new areas of spiritual care for older people in the benefice.
Jennie says, ‘I have been an Anna Friend since 2017 but now that I have retired from paid work I am looking forward to my new role as Anna Chaplain. The role fits in with my current ministry with older people. With Anna Friend Maureen Cannon, I am going into a local care home once a month to take a Sunday service. We are also starting a monthly Messy Vintage service from February. I really feel that God is calling me to this ministry, and I am excited about this new chapter in my life.’