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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

‘Our life experiences and wisdom can be a huge asset’ – two more Newcastle Anna Chaplains

Anna Chaplains Beryl Austoni and Gill Mungall with the bishop of Berwick, Mark Wroe, who is also the acting bishop of Newcastle

A very warm welcome to two new Anna Chaplains in Newcastle Diocese, Beryl Austoni and Gill Mungall. Their commissioning service took place in Newcastle Cathedral on Sunday 6 March at 4.00 pm, with the Right Revd Mark Wroe, bishop of Berwick and acting bishop of Newcastle, taking the service.

The officiating minister, Canon Peter Dobson welcomed everyone to what was to be a feast of choral music. The order of service began: ‘Today we celebrate with joy the commissioning of the following people as Anna Chaplains trained to care for the spiritual needs of older people in our churches and communities – Beryl Austoni and Gill Mungall.’

Margaret Weaver – a reader (licensed lay minister, LLM) and Anna Chaplain from Shilbottle, gave a brief introduction to the work of Anna Chaplaincy. Pamela Nobbs, the northeast coordinator of Anna Chaplaincy led the thanksgiving.

Beryl is from the parish of Monkseaton St Mary, Whitley Bay, which is currently in vacancy and she was supported by the non-stipendiary minister and leader of their PCC. Gill is from the parish of Riding Mill and joins the existing Anna Chaplain there, Anne Foster. Riding Mill is situated between Hexham and Newcastle, in the Tyne Valley.

As he commissioned them, Bishop Mark said:

Gill and Beryl, you have agreed to serve as part of the Anna Chaplaincy team. It is my great joy to commission you and to ask God’s blessing upon you, and upon your ministry. We give thanks to God that you have responded to this call to service amongst God’s people. In being commissioned today, you are committing yourselves to this vital work – and to supporting one another in this precious ministry: honouring the older members of our church communities, learning from their wisdom and ministering to their spiritual needs.

Both Anna Chaplains were then presented with their licences and badges.

Beryl Austoni

Beryl Austoni describes in her own words her journey towards Anna Chaplaincy:

‘I was born just after World War II in Nottingham to very working-class parents. I went to a secondary modern school because my parents moved from Nottinghamshire to Derbyshire and I never knew if I’d passed the second half of the 11+ exam. I tell you this as it took me until I was in my 40s to believe that I was intelligent!

‘I left school after O-Levels at 16 and worked in libraries for two years but I really wanted to teach. At that time you could get into teacher training if you had 5 O-Levels and had been at work, so off I went to train as a textiles teacher.

‘After I was widowed at the age of 51, I took early retirement from teaching and volunteered for the Citizens Advice Bureau and then trained with Cruse Bereavement Care and worked with them in Cambridge and, after moving up to the northeast, in Newcastle.

‘I enjoyed working with the bereaved and also did some supervision of other volunteers and helped with training. However, there comes a time when the work becomes hard and so I took a break to recover and find a new path. I started to attend church again, after many years of absence and discovered that my counselling skills were helpful to some of the new friends at church.

‘Then in 2019, I went to a meeting with members of the Newcastle Diocese who had become Anna Chaplains to hear about the spiritual care course they had completed. I, too, completed the course in 2019 and helped deliver the same course later in the year. I enjoyed the work so much and it made me feel more confident about working with older people at church.

‘I hope that becoming an Anna Chaplain will enable us to start a group in the church and the wider community that enhances the lives of older people as they move along their ageing journey. Our life experiences and wisdom can be a huge asset to any group and I want to be part of helping all of us who are older to feel we have spiritual meaning in our lives, in whatever form that comes.’




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