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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Glowing tributes paid at the annual Gathering

'This is Your Life'-style theme music heralded a specially put together compilation of clips at the annual Gathering this month. Many of the people who have been closest to Debbie (Thrower) as she pioneered Anna Chaplaincy had recorded tributes. Anna Chaplains attending the annual Gathering, this year at High Leigh, Hertfordshire, were treated to a host of accolades for their chaplaincy work across the country.

First heard was Ann Persson, former trustee of BRF and a stalwart supporter of Anna Chaplaincy from the beginning. Her son even designed the seedhead logo!

She hailed Debbie, 'my dear friend and now fellow vice-president of BRF', and said, 'It was marvellous that God should sow a seed in your heart to offer spiritual and emotional care to older people first in Alton and then you could obviously see that it could roll out country wide.'

'Its grown and spread and touched thousands of people's lives,' she said, adding how pleased she was that Debbie Ducille will be taking on the day to day leadership of Anna Chaplaincy from December 1st: 'God likes Debbies for this ministry, and it will be in her safe hands.'

Director of Edinburgh-based Faith in Older People, Maureen O'Neill wished Debbie T 'a joyful retirement enriched with lots of different things, although, she said, 'I'm sure Anna Chaplaincy will always be deep in your heart as it will be in ours. '

'You have been an enormous inspiration to us, and it's brought forward ideas for us in Scotland that we are really determined to see through.

So I hope a legacy for your thoughtfulness and your determination will be an increase in the number of chaplains in Scotland, and that it will be embedded for the future.'

Methodist minister the Revd Keith Underhill was a prime mover when Anna Chaplaincy began in Alton, Hampshire. He was also Debbie's line manager when she started as the first such chaplain for older people in the town and surrounding villages.

Keith expressed what a joy this 'God-given, Spirit-filled, ministry among older people' had been, and how it had 'transformed the lives of tens of thousands of older people, their families and friends in care homes, community groups and churches all across the country.'

'You have been at the forefront of reminding everyone that older people matter and have a great deal to give and to share... Right from the very beginning you 'got it'. You; you understood the nature of this ministry that you had embarked upon.'

Acting Chair of Christians on Ageing , the Revd Dr Keith Albans was Director of Chaplaincy and Spirituality for MHA, Methodist Homes, when he and Debbie first met. 'How typical of you' he said, 'to bring into being a movement, the need of which so many of us had bent the ear of the Church (about) for years. Your gifts for networking, and persuasion and coupled with your flair for publicity and knowledge of the media have all been exercised magnificently to everyone's benefit as the movement has grown and spread.'

Keith Albans recalled how he and Debbie had spoken at one another's events. 'We sought ways of joint working across the churches, and in it all you've been a magnificent exemplar of advocating the place and the role of older people in church. You've been a good friend to Christians on Ageing and your support has been much appreciated.'

'I'm sure it won't be easy to step away, but you can rest assured that no one will ever again be able to seriously question why we might need Anna Chaplains.'

The Director of Embracing Age, Tina English said what a joy and privilege it had been 'to work alongside you in expressing the value and the worth of the older generations.'

'It's been wonderful to see how much Anna Chaplaincy has grown and developed under your inspirational leadership and, I know that the seeds you have sown over these 10 to 15 years, or so, are going to continue to bear fruit into the future.'

Paul Raymond. Older Persons Project Manager at Irish Chaplaincy gave his 'sincere thanks, from Irish Chaplaincy, for all your inspiration, your wisdom, and all your help as we have got to know you and the wonderful work of Anna Chaplaincy over the last two years.'

'Thank you for all your support for our work among older people and also across the (Catholic) Westminster Diocese as we look to develop a model like Anna Chaplaincy and hopefully with Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends in our communities as well.'

The Rt Revd Dr Jonathan Frost, Bishop of Portsmouth thanked Debbie for her 'visionary support and enabling of Anna Chaplaincy. 'Generations of older people, he said, will give thanks for the opportunities that came their way to discover the beauty and radiance of Christ in later years because of you and because of the movement. And it is a movement that you have initiated.'

'I remember in the early days when you, Debbie, were getting things going and meeting some of the old union, the clergy, who were saying 'this is what we do already, we visit the elderly, we go into care homes' and you were so gracious and kind but also determined in seeing through your vision for a great growth in the visiting and the caring and the sharing the faith among older people in later life.
Had you allowed the union to say 'this is our work', and not the work of the whole church, and a lay-led work, then we would be in a much poorer situation now.
I look forward to the day when, through your work, we will all say with great confidence that older people are the church of today, not the church of yesterday, and that younger people are the church of today, not the church of tomorrow. And that we have a wonderful gift to give to each other, and that gift is ourselves, and the gift of the faith we have in Jesus that we are discovering and learning to share.'

'Debbie congratulations on a wonderful work of ministry' said Bishop Jonathan, 'all done, I know you would say, in the power of the Holy Spirit and blessed and encouraged through the very gracious Lord and Saviour we serve, but all of us want to honour your contribution and the wonderful work you've brought into the world. So, bless you in the next stage in your honorary role (as a BRF vice-president) but we will continue to pray not least in the Diocese of Portsmouth, the beautiful, finely-proportioned Diocese of Portsmouth. We are great advocates for Anna Chaplaincy and hugely grateful to you. Thank you.'




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