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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Notes from a chaplain – spending time with older people – ‘an enormous privilege’

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

‘It has been an enormous privilege to have been able to spend time with Caraway and the Anna Chaplains as part of my extended study leave (sabbatical), a period of three months spent away from my parish role as rector of Fawley.’ So begins Revd Alison Bennett’s ‘Notes from a chaplain’, the frontispiece to the Hampshire charity Caraway’s summer newsletter.

She continues:

Revd Alison Bennett

‘The focus of my study has been the “Spirituality of Ageing”, partly motivated by wanting to gain a deeper understanding of my own spirituality as I approach 60, but also from a desire to offer something more to my parish ministry where most people I encounter would be deemed to be “older people.”

‘I have had the gift of time to read extensively around this area, and Joan Chittister’s wonderful book The Gift of Years, will particularly stay with me and will be returned to. But I think that the more practical experience and knowledge that I have gathered will prove to be of huge value, beginning with the loneliness workshop and through all the events, meetings, and gatherings that I have been welcomed into (including Care Home services, Vintage Adventure, Heavenly Eleven and Holiday at Home to name just a few). There is so much that is good that I am continuing to reflect upon from those experiences.’

‘In a society in which older people are often viewed as problematic and even a burden, it has been deeply moving to witness and experience the respect and honour with which every person that is in contact with Caraway or the Anna Chaplains is treated, giving value to the experience and wisdom they have gained over their lifetimes. And the time that is given in simply coming alongside people and listening to their stories.’

‘I am aware from church leadership that there are never enough volunteers, and I know that this is a challenge for Caraway too, and the training and safeguarding requirements for volunteers can sometimes feel prohibitive. But I was struck by the commitment and compassion of all the volunteers that I met and was able to chat to, whose hearts have been stirred to serve God in this incredibly important ministry.’

‘I know that my heart too has been stirred and that I have been changed by all that I have experienced and witnessed over these recent weeks, and I am deeply grateful for that.’

‘There is much that I will continue to ponder in my heart as I reflect on what I might bring back to my parish. I want to say a huge THANK YOU for this time, and I will continue to pray for the ministry of Caraway and the Anna Chaplaincy.’

Revd Alison Bennett

Rector of Fawley Parish, Hampshire




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