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  • Debbie Ducille

New Anna Chaplain in the Avon Valley

Mary Melbourne writes about her commissioning at Candlemas amongst the snowdrops (Candlemas Bells) at St Mary’s Church, Breamore.

Friday 2 February 2024 in the Church of England was designated as Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the temple. As Anna Chaplains are named after the widow, Anna, who appears with Simeon in Luke’s gospel at Candlemas, I chose this special day to be commissioned as an Anna Chaplain within the Avon Valley Churches Parish (AVC), which comprises six churches around Fordingbridge in the north-west corner of the beautiful and ancient New Forest.

The start of my journey to this point began last year, at a meeting of licensed lay ministers at Winchester, where I met a fellow LLM who had trained as an Anna Chaplain. I was so inspired by her story regarding the work of Anna Chaplains that I decided to investigate the possibility of training as one myself. I discussed this with the late Revd Kate Wilson, who at that time was leading the pastoral care team within the AVC. We explored the need for improving the care of the older members of our churches and community, and agreed that this was an area that needed to be strengthened within our parish and local communities. The older members of our churches and communities must be cherished and loved, and know that they are still valuable. Appreciating the elderly and learning from them is a gift from God.

Kate and I decided that it would be of benefit to the parish for both of us to train as Anna Chaplains. We sought the agreement of the PCC and with generous funding from Avon Valley Community Matters Trust enrolled on the autumn training course. Sadly, Kate died before she could begin her training, but I went ahead with it and found it to be most inspiring and informative. Now, I would like to put into practice what I have learnt, both in memory of Kate, and to use this newly acquired knowledge and inspiration to help lead the pastoral work in the Avon Valley Parish.

I was commissioned to serve in the AVC as an Anna Chaplain by the area dean, Canon Gary Philbrick, during a service at St Mary’s Breamore, one of the six churches within the AVC, and the church where I am a focal minister and LLM.

This was a very moving experience for me, especially as I was supported by so many friends from all of the churches within the AVC and beyond. I am so thankful that God led me in this direction and I hope that in the coming months and years, working with other people in the AVC, we will be able to strengthen and develop the pastoral care team and that some people may become interested in training as Anna Chaplains or Anna Friends.




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