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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Orchard open air service for new Kent Anna Chaplain Lis Willmet

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

Lis and her husband Peter Willmet chatting with friends after the service

Lis Willmet’s commissioning as Anna Chaplain with the Six Benefice in Canterbury Diocese

Lis Willmet has been reflecting on her recent commissioning as Anna Chaplain in the Canterbury Diocese where she was supported by Julia Burton-Jones, Anna Chaplaincy lead for the diocese and training and development lead for Anna Chaplaincy at BRF:

'My commissioning as an Anna Chaplain took place at a Sunday service on 4 September 2022, in the orchard next to St Mary the Virgin Church, Newington. I should explain that the orchard was used to help us celebrate the season of creation. The service itself brought together people from across the Six Benefice as well as Methodists (from the local chapel) and Roman Catholics (fellow supporters of Clive – who offered the orchard for the service). It felt truly ecumenical.

'While celebrating God as creator, sustainer and redeemer, the service also encouraged us to reflect on prayer and faith and hearing and responding to God’s call and his invitation to receive his healing. There was a profound sense of God at work amongst us.

'Two things struck me particularly as I stood at the front to be commissioned:

'The first was the assurance that so much within my life had come together to bring me to Anna Chaplaincy at this time. I felt that God was affirming all that had gone before in the way of a ministry of coming alongside others and listening – but I also had the sense that he was saying that there is to be so much more and that the commissioning is a start of a new adventure – one that I have to trust him with. 'The second thing that struck me (as I looked out on all the people gathered in the orchard and knew that I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed) was that I was surrounded by friends – and so much love. I didn’t know everyone there – and not everyone knew me – but there was a wonderful depth of loving and caring support.

'I give thanks for an amazing service.'

Friends, neighbours and her husband Peter were at the service to support Lis. Her home group leader Gill mentioned in conversation with Julia and Lis after the service the need for Lis to remember self-care; Gill can see how much responsibility Lis holds in the benefice and how willing she is to serve, and urged her to remember to take time to rest and focus on her own needs. Former benefice reader and friend, Rosemary, was the first person to mention Anna Chaplaincy to Lis and was delighted to be present at her commissioning. Gifts presented to Lis at the end of the service were a token of the community and benefice's appreciation of her commitment. She was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a home communion set from the Canterbury Pottery.

Church family members Noreen and Roger

Julia also spoke after the service with Noreen and Roger, church members for over 30 years who are visited regularly by Lis. Roger values the support of his daughters, church family and the local home care agencies in caring for Noreen but is aware that other carers are more isolated. He feels Anna Chaplaincy is much-needed in the benefice. Lis’s neighbour Wendy has a PAT (Pets as Therapy) dog, Blue, a lovable husky. Lis went with Wendy and Blue to visit Noreen and Roger the week before the service. The visit brought much joy and reminded Noreen of her family dog who Roger was introduced to when they began courting at the age of 16. Sixty-six years after their marriage, the memory of a much-loved pet is vivid still. Blue will doubtless be in great demand in the village and beyond in his new therapy role!

The affection with which the congregation greeted Roger and Noreen, as many took time to offer hugs and speak with them individually, showed how closely they are held at the heart of their church family.

Introducing Anna Chaplaincy during the service, Julia explained that Lis’s professional life as a physiotherapist, before her recent retirement, has given her tremendous insight into some of the daily challenges faced by older people. As an established reader (licensed lay minister) in the diocese, she has a thriving ministry at two local care homes. It was at a women’s weekend for the benefice at High Leigh that Revd Jean Kerr, Anna Chaplain at St George’s Deal and working group member for the diocese, suggested Lis consider Anna Chaplaincy. Lis is the 19th person commissioned as Anna Chaplain in Canterbury Diocese since September 2019, and she is looking forward to networking with the team.

Representing the ministry team in the benefice, Revd Amanda Lane said of Lis’s commissioning,

'I have known Lis for a long time, as a trusted friend and valued partner in ministry. She is someone with a natural warmth and empathy, and in recent years her existing ministry among people who are elderly and vulnerable has grown and deepened, enriching the life of all in our benefice. 'Her commissioning as an Anna Chaplain is a wonderful way of affirming her ministry, and I know the training and fellowship it involves is already enabling her to engage ever more deeply with those among whom she serves, as well as providing expertise for those of us with less experience. Thank you, Julia, for your guidance and encouragement, and thank you, Lis, for your care and compassion. May God bless you both richly as you serve him.'
Lis receiving a bouquet of flowers presented by congregation member Isaac




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