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Praise for the 'strength of support Anna Chaplaincy brings to people in later life across the country'

Portsmouth Cathedral held a moving candlelit Candlemas service this month celebrating Simeon and Anna from Luke's gospel as well as the contemporary work of Anna Chaplaincy, writes Debbie Thrower.                                                    

I was delighted to attend as a Canon of Honour at the cathedral and to meet many new Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends beforehand at a training afternoon held in the cathedral precincts. It is a year since we gathered for the first such Candlemas service since Anna Chaplaincy became a key part of the diocese's plans to bring the love of Christ to all generations.

Memories of Candlemas 2023

Bishop Jonathan praised the strength of support Anna Chaplaincy brings to people in their older age. The Revd Dr Coleen Jackson preached a highly relevant sermon on how 'it’s never too late!' Indeed, many of the volunteers involved in Anna ministry are drawn to such a vocation in their later years.  She recalled how an inscription to that effect she saw at an Oxford college spurred her into pursuing her own calling to become an Anna Chaplain.

They were the 'words on that day when God spoke to me and I believe [He} was confirming what he had put on my heart. Thankfully the Bible is full of wonderful examples of how God used people later in life. Simeon and Anna are but two. God does not recognise age, just a willing heart.'


This season in the church's calendar, she explained, is known by several different names: 'The purification of Mary, Candlemas or the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. The story takes place in what we call a liminal period, an in-between time or state, a grey area, a space of uncertainty. Candlemas is a liminal point in the church’s year, midpoint between the light of Christmas and the sombre period of Lent.


'In Israel, Simeon and Anna were in a liminal period of their history, truly a period of darkness and they were patiently waiting for light – a Messiah... Many whom we meet in Anna Chaplaincy are in that transitional or liminal space in their lives. That period between the 3rd and 4th Age. For some it means giving up their independence, for some their family homes, and for other they are at the end of their earthly lives. For many it is a period of darkness. Whilst we work in community with those of faith, little faith or no faith many are returning to faith. For whatever reason they have had a faith and life just got in the way… our presence rekindles their fire…and yes they have lots of questions of faith.' 


Coleen noted that Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends bring light into the world of those in older in age in Portsmouth Diocese and beyond. 'I was Anna Chaplain number 171 when I became an Anna Chaplain' she said, and by next Monday there will be 350', with many more than that working alongside them as Anna Friends or volunteers.

'Those I work alongside are ordinary people doing extraordinary things brightening the day of others through care home services, memory cafes, hospital visits, working with GP’s or Social Prescribers, offering special services for those living with dementia and those that care for them, home visits, Messy Vintages in the pub and much , much more than I can share here. Befriending those of varying ages including the growing number of those aged over 100 in our Diocese.'

 For Coleen, it has been a privilege, she said, to co-lead this ministry in Portsmouth Diocese.

'I know that the Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends in our Diocese have shone a light into the lives of those older in years, diminishing  their darkness. For everything I have mentioned it has taken time, patience and much prayer. However, our wait  has not been as long as Simeon and Anna, but like them when we come into contact with those we serve we often see Jesus, and my hope is that they see Jesus in us. Remember ‘It’s never too late’.  

Portsmouth Cathedral close to the historic waterrfront

Meanwhile, Portsmouth is currently seeking a paid part-time Coordinator - a crucial role in expanding Anna Chaplaincy throughout south Hampshire and the Isle of Wight . Do consider applying, or make sure you pass on the news to anyone who might be a perfect fit for this important role. The deadline is March 1st.




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