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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Recognising faithful commitment to older people

Updated: Aug 25, 2022


Rev Chris Lavender and Anna Chaplain Erika Catchpole

Erika Catchpole is the latest person to be commissioned as Anna Chaplain – on August 21 2022 – and the service recognised the faithful commitment to older people exemplified by Erika's ministry.

Julia Burton-Jones

Julia Burton-Jones, training and development lead for Anna Chaplaincy at BRF reported on the encouragement she felt taking part in the service.


Erika is not new to ministry with older people. Her commissioning at St Nicholas Church Allington, Maidstone, marked many years of dedicated and compassionate ministry with older people in her church and local community. The church was full to celebrate Erika’s commitment, and Julia preached in her role as Anna Chaplaincy lead for Kent. Chris Lavender, vicar at St Nicholas, reflected on the characteristics of this ministry. At the heart of Erika’s work, he said, was a ‘faithful commitment’ to older people. He encouraged others in the congregation to consider if they might become involved also.


Erika reflected on the process of recognising her chaplaincy role through participating in the online Anna Chaplaincy training course in Kent:


‘Although I had been visiting care homes for 15 years (under the authority of a succession of incumbents) there was a reluctance to assume a “chaplain” mantle; in my mind that was reserved for ordained priests. But after attending various informative seminars, and then the monthly Maidstone Anna Chaplaincy Zoom hook-ups and being constantly challenged “why not”, I was won over and could no longer resist the call! ‘Can you teach an old dog new tricks? You can a) if they are willing to learn,and b) if you can be patient as they wrestle with the challenges of modern technology! Thus, I was enabled to persevere with the six training sessions each lasting two hours – mostly on my laptop, once entirely on my mobile phone and once using a combination of two devices! I have also received much inspiration and encouragement from meeting up with other members of the training cohort. Each of us from different routes, but united in a common purpos.’

St Nicholas has a vibrant ministry with older people. Its weekly Tuesday café attended by Erika attracts on average 60 guests, mainly older people, with 100 involved in total; most are not members of the church.


The parish has no fewer than eight of Maidstone’s 21 care homes. Erika is chaplain to four of the homes, working with fellow Anna Chaplain Irene Shepherd from Tonbridge Road Methodist Church.


Erika is a musician, so chooses and accompanies hymns for the services. She creates a picture board with images related to the theme of the service. When the service has ended, Irene visits residents in their rooms while Erika engages those in the lounge in conversation and reminiscence prompted by the images.

Erika’s commissioning was met with hearty applause and many individual words of thanks and congratulation over coffee afterwards. Erika’s daughters were also at the service to celebrate with her. A midday baptism followed the service. Vicar Chris reflected on the privilege of ministry alongside people of all ages through the important milestones of their lives; in both joyful and difficult times. He said of the service:

‘The Anna Chaplaincy network has become a significant ministry to care homes across Maidstone Deanery over the course of the last couple of years, despite the challenges of the pandemic. God is clearly in this but so is the faithful commitment of many volunteers who work as Anna Friends and Anna Chaplains. Hence, it was a great honour to have Erika commissioned as an Anna Chaplain in our Sunday service on 21 August – Erika has played a significant part in care home ministry for many years and it was therefore wonderful to accord her this enhanced role and have that role recognised by her parish church of St Nicholas, Allington.’

 

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