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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

News from Anna Chaplain in Durham

Ideas here adaptable for Easter and other times of the year?

Hand made gifts for care home residents

Anna Chaplain Karen Abbott has been very busy over the autumn and winter months bringing cheer to the people she and volunteers from her church are supporting during the pandemic.

She writes: 'In the last virtual gathering of Anna Chaplains, you asked me to let you know what I had been doing in Durham. Here is a description of some of the work I have been doing. You will discover from this, how much I appreciate the blog and the opportunity to learn from others in the virtual gatherings.'

Karen reports how earlier this month, 'for the first time since the March lockdown, I was allowed into one of the homes to accompany the Team Rector in giving the last rites to Jean, one of the residents who had regularly attended services and was living with dementia.'

Some of the resources/activities which have been sent into care homes

Holding crosses with laminated Lord’s Prayer cards bought in St David’s Cathedral

A friend embroidered the crosses.

Psalm 23 workbooks and bracelets

I put a few sets of these into each care home.

A Carer's Guide series of BRF books

I have given a set of these to each care home and my Team Rector who was impressed with them. They are available from BRFonline.

All Souls’ Day Service

We held a service for All Souls’ Day on Zoom in November, but for those who were unable to access it we distributed a leaflet with the readings for the service with a candle (LED) which they could light at 7.00 pm when the service was being held.

Advent Calendars

Pauline James designed an Advent Calendar which I printed and took into each care home (email if you'd like a copy sent to you) as well as the pastoral sheets produced by Sally Rees (see the blog posted on 5 January 2021, Heartwarming words for January's chills).

I put the gifts to accompany each sheet in an Advent box e.g. chocolate Santas, Christmas crackers etc.

Advent prayer chain (Christian Aid)

I invited residents to create a prayer chain by making one loop of the chain each day in Advent, taking a few moments every day to reflect and pray for what we are all waiting for – for God’s vision for the world to be realised. Christian Aid offered a prompt or question for each day of Advent and encouraged people to write a prayer or draw a picture on each link of their prayer chain and connect it to the link from the previous day. (I sent in some foil links for residents to write on.) By the end of Advent they would have a Christmas decoration linking together their hopes and prayers for God’s world.

Staying Connected bulletin

During the first lockdown, the Communications team in the parish began to produce a Staying Connected Bulletin for church members which is now also emailed to some people in the church communities and the care homes. Residents and staff are encouraged to contribute to the bulletin. The quizzes in it are particularly appreciated by residents.

The Tea Bags Project

Timothy Class at Learning for Life College, Consett, have enjoyed every moment of being part of the Tea Bags Project, funded through the National Lottery Community Fund. 250 Tea Bags – full of goodies such as biscuits, tea, coffee, spreadable Kavli cheese – have been packed by Learners and delivered to the most vulnerable people in our community, to bring a bit of happiness to them at this difficult time. Thanks to Pauline James and Timothy Class, Alison Blackburn and I have been able to deliver some of the tea bags in the communities of St Cuthbert’s and St Aidan’s too.

Every resident in each care home received a bag as well as several members in the church communities.

Zoom carol service

One of the care homes was particularly keen to hold a carol service over Zoom so that residents could see some familiar faces on the TV screens and I-pads. So I led the service accompanied by some of the musicians who would normally come into the care homes with me and the Team Rector. It was appreciated, but poor internet connectivity on this occasion proved to be a problem.

In addition to the above activities, I have sent in cards and chocolates for the staff and at Christmas, some of the flower arrangers in church made floral arrangements and cards to be delivered to the care homes and local businesses.

Messy Vintage

In some of the feedback I have received, hands on activities are popular, so I now intend to introduce Messy Vintage.

I enjoyed the presentation at the Gathering and now intend to purchase the book published this month.

I also intend to begin to make a set of tea cards which Charlotte Overton-Hart (story chaplain, and keynote speaker) introduced at the Gathering.

Debbie Thrower adds: 'It is brilliant to receive all these good ideas which I hope will interest and inspire other Anna Chaplains and others involved in ministry among older people, perhaps? You might feel you could copy or adapt some of these ideas to work well in other contexts and seasons of the year, too.'

If you have novel ideas or find your own ways of celebrating different high points in the year in ways which engage and stimulate care home residents and others deprived of much company at this time do send us your stories and photographs!

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