The commissioning of Rochester Anna Chaplains by Bishop Jonathan, 27 September 2022
Three days after he was inaugurated, the new bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd Dr Jonathan Gibbs commissioned four new Anna Chaplains at a special event in a marquee in the garden of his home in Rochester.
Bishop Jonathan said that Anna Chaplaincy reflected his own perspective on the role and value of older people in church and society. He spoke movingly about his father, who, having been made redundant from a senior role in his late 50s, set up a business helping other older workers find new and fulfilling employment. His father came to faith in his 60s and only sold his business at the age of 81. He later developed dementia and spent the last years of his life in a care home, supported by Bishop Jonathan and his family.
Several Anna Chaplains in the diocese were there to congratulate those being commissioned, as well as family members and representatives of the churches. Anna Chaplain and archdeaconry lead for Anna Chaplaincy, Revd Sophie Sutherland, was interviewed by Julia Burton-Jones, who is Rochester Diocese’s lead for Anna Chaplaincy (and training and development lead for Anna Chaplaincy at BRF).
Julia asked Sophie what advice she would give to the new Anna Chaplains. She encouraged them to be gentle with themselves. This work is fulfilling but can be tough at times, and you need to be aware of your own needs. She reflected on the benefit of meeting regularly with other Anna Chaplains to share ideas, pray and encourage each other.
Alice English was commissioned as an Anna Chaplain in the benefice of Mereworth, Wateringbury and West Peckham. She was previously an Anna Friend with the Heart of Kent Hospice Anna Chaplaincy project from October 2018, working in that role with lead Anna Chaplain Revd Colin Terry for several years; she supported the hospice dementia café and visited people at home and in care homes. Having cared for her dad who had dementia, she was drawn to working alongside the hospice dementia team. Alice completed the Anna Chaplaincy module offered within the diocesan lay ministry training programme. She has a calling to support individuals isolated in their own homes, especially in Wateringbury where her family has farming roots.
Alice has also established an art group in the village which is attended by older people.
Jane Rosam has something in common with Alice in that she is a farmer! Jane also has a heart for older people living in their own homes, and for their carers, and has supported several whose lives have been affected by dementia. She hosts a regular lunch to enable friendships to blossom and the sense of belonging to the local community to continue for older people in the parish. She is on General Synod and has been part of a group developing a welcome for members of the LGBT community at Rochester Cathedral. As Anna Chaplaincy lead, Julia said she hopes Jane will guide the team’s thinking on this aspect of spiritual care in later life. Jane completed the Anna Chaplaincy module as part of her lay ministry training; she was licensed as a lay minister in the benefice of Hever, Four Elms and Mark Beach in May.
Liz Tragheim was also licensed as a lay minister this May and took the Anna Chaplaincy module as part of her training, as she could see that the parish in which she was to minister (St John the Evangelist in Sidcup) has many older people. A key aspect of Liz’s work is St John’s Place of Welcome which opens its doors every Wednesday. Many guests are older people, and Liz is considering how to extend its activities to include a growing number of older people who are physically frail or living with dementia. She is planning to gather a group of Anna Friends to work with her and to provide them with training in early 2023. She is also teaching English with a group of Ukrainian refugees and thinking about the spiritual needs of older people from this community.
Jane Roberts also completed the lay ministry Anna Chaplaincy module this year and holds the Bishop’s Certificate. Jane is involved in care home ministry in her parish of St Peter and St Paul Aylesford, and has a heart for people with memory problems, having cared for her mum who has dementia. She is exploring with others how the church might run a group or activity for people with dementia and their carers, perhaps Messy Vintage or a dementia café, and has been visiting other churches to observe ways in which they offer this kind of support.
The new team will support one another as they establish their Anna ministry. They will join local Anna Chaplaincy hubs that meet regularly. The diocesan team, made up of Anna Chaplaincy lead Julia Burton-Jones and six archdeaconry leads, will continue to support and encourage them as they develop spiritual care for older people in their parishes.
Julia reflected after the event on her sense of fulfilment in having trained the new members of the team and brought them to the point of being commissioned by Bishop Jonathan. She said:
‘It is wonderful to welcome a new diocesan bishop in Jonathan who is keen to build on the deep commitment of his predecessor James Langstaff in valuing ministry among older people. I am looking forward to working with him in the years to come in welcoming new Anna Chaplains to fulfil this vital role with the older people of Kent and South East London.’