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  • Stuart Holley

New Anna Chaplains commissioned in Norwich Cathedral by the new bishop!

On 11 October, four new Anna Chaplains were commissioned to serve across the Diocese of Norwich by the new bishop of Lynn, Rt Revd Dr Jane Steen. Margaret Blackshaw, Sue Moore, Gaye Hailstone and Peta Cunnane were joined by members of their congregations, family and friends for a wonderful service of celebration at Norwich Cathedral.

For each of the individuals, the service represented a significant point in their journey of discernment and discovery as they have responded to God’s call in their lives. After the service, Anna Chaplaincy lead for Norwich Diocese (and Yare Valley Churches rector) Revd Peter Leech asked each person to describe their journey towards being commissioned as Anna Chaplain.

This is what they said:

Margaret Blackshaw’s journey

'My Anna Chaplaincy journey began with a simple prayer, “What now?”, when wondering what post-lockdown might look like for me. The next day my vicar emailed suggesting Anna Chaplaincy might “be a good fit for me”. After many months of careful consideration and prayerful discernment I became convinced God was indeed “setting before me an open door”. Following my commissioning, I’m looking forward to my training and working with the pastoral team at St Stephen’s, to further this ministry to people in their later lives, both within the church and the community.’

Margaret is Anna Chaplain within St Stephen’s parish, in the heart of Norwich city.

Gaye Hailstone’s journey

‘My mother was in a residential care home for the last 18 months of her life and during that time no representative from any church ever visited the home, and as my mother had been a regular churchgoer this left a huge gap in her life. It made me aware of the real need to take God’s word and his love to those who can no longer attend church services. The seed was sown and I felt God was calling me to do something about it, and although I tried to ignore him, he didn’t give up. Eventually, with his help and with the support and encouragement of the rector, I now lead a team of people who each month take a simple service of worship into the four residential care homes in our parish. I know there is so much more to do; we need to reach all those elderly people in the community who are living on their own, offering them companionship and support and walking alongside them on their spiritual journey.’

Gaye is Anna Chaplain for the Yare Valley Churches.

Sue Moore’s journey

‘I first became interested in the Anna Chaplaincy movement when my husband and I were studying for a certificate in “older people’s ministry” at Cliff College, led by Debbie Thrower, the pioneer of this ministry. In my previous existence as a Methodist layworker, the emphasis was always on family and youth work, perhaps often ignoring the contribution of older members of the church and their evangelistic potential in reaching out to others of the same age. After reflecting on my own experience with Age UK, Cruse and my work with older people within the church and community, I started to think and pray about the possibility of becoming an Anna Chaplain myself. When I got home, I asked whether there were any Anna Chaplains in the Norwich diocese, but no one seemed to know anything about them, so I almost forgot about it, moved house and got on with lockdown and endless zoom meetings.
It was during one of these that I mentioned that I was interested in becoming an Anna Chaplain and somehow my name was passed to Revd Peter Leech who had been tasked with forming the first group of Anna Chaplains in the Norwich diocese! It was an “out of the blue” moment that leaves me in no doubt that God often works by himself when he wants something done. The opening words of the commissioning service (which have followed me around for the past 20 years) seemed to confirm both this and my call to this ministry:
“I am about to do a new thing, now it springs forth… I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)’

Sue is Anna Chaplain within the parish of St Faith’s Gaywood.

Peta Cunnane’s journey

‘My grandfather was a minister in a retirement village and even from a time as a young adult I saw how important it was to support people in their spiritual needs. Looking back, I think this is where I found I had a calling for helping people with additional needs.
Having got to know the people who came to the weekly Forget Me Not Café (a café for those on the dementia pathway and their carers), I found that I loved these special people. I started to help, and later share leading, at the monthly Forget Me Not service. I could see how those attending so blossomed when their spiritual needs were met with familiar hymns and a story to show that they were all so loved by God. After some time, Gaye mentioned Anna Chaplaincy. At first, I wasn’t sure this was for me, but once I started the training, going into the village residential homes and the resumption of the Forget Me Not service, I could see this was where God was calling me to be. This led to Monday’s lovely commissioning service by Bishop Jane, surrounded by many church friends. I so look forward to how, as an Anna Chaplain, I can help to serve the elder folk in our community.’

Peta is Anna Chaplain for the Yare Valley Churches.



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