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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Garden party celebration follows BRF Centenary Service of Thanksgiving

Friend of Anna Chaplaincy Ann Persson, Anna Chaplaincy church lead for Wales Revd Sally Rees, Anna Chaplaincy church lead for BRF Debbie Ducille, pioneer of Anna Chaplaincy Debbie Thrower, BRF chief executive Richard Fisher, training and development lead for Anna Chaplaincy Julia Burton-Jones and network member and city chaplain for older people in Southampton Canon Dr Erica Roberts.

In the picturesque surroundings of Dorchester Abbey, Oxfordshire, there was a rare opportunity for some of the Anna Chaplaincy team to meet in person and socialise with colleagues, friends and supporters. We all attended a special BRF Centenary Service in the Abbey yesterday afternoon (8 June 2022).

Dorchester Abbey, as chair of BRF trustees, the former bishop of Dorchester, Right Revd Colin Fletcher opened the service

Vice-chair of the BRF trustees, Canon Dr Christina Baxter gave the address which focused on three different images from Psalm 119. The first was 'Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path' (v. 105), a phrase taken up in the BRF Prayer (which now prefaces all its Bible reading notes). BRF's widely-read notes, received these days by readers all over the world, have their origins in a parish in Brixton in 1922 when the vicar, Revd Leslie Mannering, wanted his parishioners to 'get a move on spiritually'. How BRF has grown as a publisher since then!

The second image was inspired by 'How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!' (v. 103), which reminded Christina of both the nourishing aspects of honey as well as its stickiness and its messiness, conjuring up thoughts of the BRF initiatives – Parenting for Faith and Messy Church. Just as the gospel goes everywhere, so honey has a tendency to ooze and stick in the unlikeliest places once opened!

Thirdly, she mused on the psalmist comparing God's law, his commandments, to treasure: 'I truly love your commands more than gold, including fine gold' (v. 127). Here the comparison was made with those older people for whom nothing comes to matter more than their Christian faith.

Christina quoted the story of Arthur who had always been a stalwart advocate for BRF's Anna Chaplaincy. He supported the cause both financially and through his great gift of encouragement, both to me (writes Debbie Thrower) and the other Anna Chaplains with whom he had contact in Alton, Hampshire.

Christina told the congregation the story of how Debbie remembers being summoned to see Arthur because he'd had a dream and wanted to tell me about it. When I visited, he insisted that God had said to him, 'Debbie must go to Newcastle.'

Arthur knew that I was starting to establish links with people in the Newcastle Diocese who were keen to establish Anna Chaplaincy in the northeast. Arthur then donated a significant sum of money for me to be able to pay a visit and stay locally to see yet more contacts. Those links did, indeed, pay dividends. The northeast now has one of the highest proportions of Anna Chaplains anywhere in the country.

Debbie Ducille and Erica Roberts

Yesterday, both within the abbey throughout the service and during the myriad of conversations outside over a sumptuous tea, we were able to give heartfelt thanks for the extraordinary way God has blessed the work of BRF – 'nurturing small beginnings into surprising blessings', as our centenary prayer so succinctly expresses it.

We look forward with great hope and expectation for all that God seeks to do through Anna Chaplaincy and everything that BRF undertakes in the next 100 years!




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