Rosemary Hughes was commissioned Anna Chaplain on September 25 during a confirmation service with Bishop Simon Burton-Jones at St Francis of Assisi in Petts Wood. She joins the growing team of Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends in the Rochester Diocese.
Revd Christine Lathan, who is Anna Chaplaincy mentor in Rochester Diocese, spoke briefly about Anna Chaplaincy and presented Rosemary to Bishop Simon. Christine reflected after the service:
'This was the first time I had acted in this role, and I felt privileged. I was to present Rosemary to Bishop Simon. The bishop asked Rosemary, "Do you believe that God is calling you to this service?" The bishop spoke of the requirements of the role, and Rosemary promised to "carry out her duties with due understanding for people, and with courage to advocate on behalf of those left in the silent places of this world." I found the words very moving and after the service, an elderly lady, Catherine, spoke to me explaining that the words she'd heard spoken in the service were exactly what Rosemary was and did. Not only had Rosemary visited her in hospital but had also visited her when she went home and even cooked meals for her.
'Several family members and friends were at the service, and I could tell from how Rosemary interacted with each person, including members of the congregation of all ages, that she valued each person and each encounter. The bishop mentioned in his sermon that in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man does not have a name but that the beggar at his gate does and how it's usually the other way round. I can see that Rosemary ensures that the people she meets in her role have a name and are valued highly.
'Bishop Simon's words to the confirmation candidates and to Rosemary were to remind them that the observable universe is 94 billion light-years wide, probably bigger and growing. We were asked to think how much power that would take and that God's love for each of us individually is as great. We're asked to share that love, thinking of what Jesus did for us on the cross.'
Rosemary’s vicar at St Francis, Fr Stephen Niechcial, said of her commissioning:
'We warmly welcome Rosemary's Anna Chaplaincy ministry in our parish. Rosemary already has a ministry to the other end of the age range in the NCT Bumps and Babies group she runs at our church. I know she believes how important it is to bring work with older people into working across the generations and engaging people of all ages together. This is an aspect of her approach we particularly value. Rosemary is also active in more than one church denomination. Again, we feel her ecumenical approach is particularly valuable. We ask you to keep Rosemary and all Anna Chaplains in your prayers.'
Revd Duncan MacBeal, the superintendent for the Methodist Circuit who will be supervising Rosemary said:
'I was delighted and honoured to be part of Rosemary's journey in this ministry. Rosemary is someone who offers a lot of her time in the service of others. She has been wonderful in her role as the leader of the Chislehurst Methodist Church's Monday Focus group which serves as a place for older people to come together for worship, fellowship, food and fun. She has also been a regular volunteer at the Bereavement Help Group in Petts Wood. Anna Chaplaincy seems like a natural extension of who she already is and is a role I am sure will fit her like a glove.'
Rosemary was asked to write a testimony which was included in the order of service, alongside testimonies from the confirmation candidates. Here is what she wrote:
'Anna Chaplain, Revd Sophie Sutherland, from Bromley Parish Church came to speak to the Mothers' Union at St Francis about Anna Chaplains. I was fortunate to hear her speak. After listening to Sophie explain what the work involves which is, in a nutshell, supporting older people both emotionally and spiritually, I felt called to train to be an Anna Chaplain.
'Anna Chaplains are sensitive to loneliness, dementia, illness and those in need of pastoral care. They make sure that people who have been regular worshipers can continue to have spiritual care, even if they are unable to get to church or are in residential care. They also connect with the wider non-church-going community and those of other faiths. Anna Chaplains are trained to advocate on behalf of others, where necessary.
'I felt that although I was already involved in running a weekly group for older people, the support that Anna Chaplains give each other in training, and through ideas and prayer, would be of invaluable help to me. Anna Chaplaincy is an ecumenical initiative and part of BRF. It is supported through funding via donations from churches and charitable trusts. (It costs in the region of £200,000 a year to resource Anna Chaplaincy at BRF.)
'I shall continue to develop this role with God’s help. This is just the start of a journey for me, and I shall have the support of St Francis Church, Chislehurst Methodist Church and, of course, the wider community.'