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  • Stuart Holley

Liz Kelly commissioned as first Anna Chaplain in Peterborough Diocese!

Updated: Jul 2, 2021

On 27 June Liz Kelly was commissioned Anna Chaplain at the 10.00am Patronal Festival Eucharist of St Peter and St Paul Abington, Northampton. Liz notes that this is one of the principal services of the parish year. Canon Beverley Hollins, the rural dean, was the celebrant and preacher at the service. Rector Revd Byung Jun Kim joined Canon Beverley in commissioning and praying over Liz.

The reading was John chapter 21 verses 15 to 22 and, in her sermon, Beverley spoke about how vocations change over time. She referred to Peter being a fisherman, a disciple, a fisher of people, an apostle and finally a shepherd, when Jesus asked him to, "Feed my sheep" (John 21.17). She then described how Liz’s vocation as a Lay Pastoral Minister has also changed as she followed the call of Jesus to become an Anna Chaplain. She was to be a shepherd to the older people of Abington.

Revd Jun likened Liz’s ministry to a lighthouse, with her role being to share the light of Christ with those who are sailing alone in the dark. Revd Jun is chaplain to St Christopher’s Care Home in Northampton, originally a sprawling Victorian vicarage which later became a care home for older people with an Anglican foundation. St Christopher’s has two beautiful chapels where services are held several times a week.

Liz says ‘it was a moving and memorable day’ and is delighted that Beverley as rural dean is excited about Anna Chaplaincy. Here is the story Liz told us about her journey to Anna Chaplaincy, in which her dog Sasha plays a leading role!

It all began with my dog! After my husband and mother died in 2006, I was left with a lot of time on my hands. I had been nursing them both at home, which had been a fulltime job, and now I was lost in every sense. As I walked my dog, Sasha, through the park every day, I asked God to help me and to show me what he wanted me to do. The answer came in an unexpected way. I became a ‘Pets as Therapy’ volunteer and started taking Sasha into a couple of local care homes. This fired my passion for working with older people, especially those with dementia, and then at a Mothers’ Union meeting, the speaker asked if anyone would like to join a group which had been formed to raise awareness of the needs of the elderly in our churches. Hesitantly, I went along, and my enthusiasm was channelled in constructive ways as we produced material and ideas for taking services in residential homes, setting up holiday at home schemes, putting on lunch clubs, and so on.

Then God called me to further commitment and in 2008 I began a two-year training course to become a Lay Pastoral Minister in my church of St Peter & St Paul, Abington, Northampton, and I was licenced in May 2010. My primary focus was to support the older members of our congregation and community and, after recruiting a team of helpers, I started taking monthly ‘Prayer and Praise’ Services in the care homes that I knew well from my Pets as Therapy visits. The work widened to include leading a monthly bible study at a sheltered housing complex and taking home communion to some of our housebound parishioners. Among other things, I produce and lead an annual ‘Reflections and Remembrance’ Service for the bereaved and have become more involved with end-of-life care and bereavement support.

During the pandemic, when visiting was not allowed, telephone support has been essential, and a team of pastoral visitors and I have tried to keep in touch with those older people living on their own, or who have no family close by. I have also got to grips with modern technology and have been offering a weekly Zoom prayer service, which several people, who have no access to the internet, can join by using their landline telephone. This has been of great help in maintaining fellowship during the lockdowns.

I have been using BRF bible reading notes for many years, and this was how I got to know about Anna Chaplaincy. I followed its development with interest and then over the last three or four years there was this constant niggle. Perhaps I should find out more? But there always seemed to be something stopping me. God kept nudging me to do something about it until I finally spoke to my incumbent earlier this year and he encouraged me to explore it further. Suddenly, there were no more barriers in the way, and I was delighted to be accepted as an Anna Chaplain in June.

As so often happens, God was using the experiences that I had gained, through my teaching career, through caring for relatives at the end of their lives, through being a ‘Pets as Therapy’ volunteer, through working on a Diocesan Group exploring what churches could be doing to reach out to the elderly, and through my role as a Lay Pastoral Minister, to prepare me for taking this next step.

Being an Anna Chaplain will not be all that different from the work that I am already doing in church, and in the community, but I am looking forward to being part of a larger national network with the opportunities that brings for taking part in regular meetings and training. The support of other Anna Chaplains is something I shall particularly value. I feel privileged to be the first Anna Chaplain commissioned in the Peterborough Diocese and I hope to encourage more to follow.’



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