Our latest Anna Chaplain is pioneering the way back into care homes despite stringent visiting restrictions during the pandemic.
Pam Shaw in Lowestoft, Suffolk, at the age of 82 was undaunted by the need to don full PPE on her first visit back into the care home where she had visited regularly in the past… but now as an Anna Chaplain for Older People.
Her account of how she managed to get back in, after so many months, makes fascinating reading.
Anna Chaplaincy in East Anglia
Feeling challenged to look into Anna Chaplaincy and with the enthusiastic support of my Rector and PCC (at St Margaret's Church, Lowestoft), I was ready to start this month.
For many years I have been licensed to take Communion into Broadlands, a large residential home in Lowestoft with a high dependency unit as well, and when they were approached they were equally keen for an Anna Chaplain to go in there if we could comply with coronavirus restrictions. The home is extremely efficient and with Communion continuing once a month once we came out of the first lockdown, my first chaplaincy visit was made possible in January.
With a prayer chain set up in church to support the venture, personalised invitations were dropped off for each resident explaining what would be happening and saying I was looking forward to getting to know them all individually. I had to take a test, and wait half an hour for the result, before cladding myself in PPE – mask, gloves and long apron which reached nearly to the floor. As we went to the room where residents would be brought to chat to me, I gloomily reflected that no one would come, seeing me in this challenging outfit, and if they did, they would be unlikely to return. However, there were seven residents all wanting to see me, five of whom joined me for separate talks before lunch intervened, each seeming only too keen to come and saying they wished to do so again next week.
Sadly my commissioning by the church, scheduled for Candlemas at the end of January, has had to be cancelled as the church has now had to close for the time being, but it has been agreed that if possible visits are to continue with the service being rescheduled once we are able to open again.
So an enormous challenge lies ahead, but I feel so grateful for the amazing support of everyone involved, including the Anna Chaplaincy Team, and for the positive first visit – the highlight of which was a 98-year-old saying she had been a Christian since going to Sunday school when a little girl, where they sang 'Jesus wants me for a sunbeam'… which she duly sang to me, and continued to do so as she was wheeled down the corridor on her way back to her room!
We asked Pam to introduce herself and tell us what had led up to this new chapter in her life as an Anna Chaplain:
Cannot think that this will be of interest to anyone, but here goes!
Now 82, life doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. We adopted two children and I now have ten grandchildren/step-grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren with another on the way.
I was a Guider in the Girl-Guiding movement for over 30 years, running a Guide and a Ranger Unit, and now belong to Trefoil (the recycled Brownie section of the movement – lots of lovely activities without having up to 50 youngsters in tow).
At various times I baked for a restaurant, gave music lessons from home in piano, keyboard and guitar, and volunteered with WRVS and Norfolk Volunteers, the latter involving visiting people on a regular basis and taking them out.
Now a church warden at my church, I also sing in the choir and pre-Covid-19 was organising what turned out to be popular afternoon coffee concerts once a month with coffee and homemade biscuits in church.
I am an oblate with a Community of Anglican Sisters – i.e. a lay member of the convent, which involves following a simple Rule of reading part of the Daily Office, spiritual study and a silent three-day retreat once a year (a source of continued amazement in my friends who cannot believe that I can be silent for so long).
I am licensed to take Communion into one of the local residential homes and have been doing this for many years now, which of course is of enormous help when starting the ministry of Anna Chaplaincy.
I feel God definitely has a sense of humour as knitting, sewing, art and crafts need more than divine help where I am concerned – and so I have felt called to look into, and now embark on, the ministry of Anna Chaplaincy.