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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Spotlight on the first Anna Chaplain in Oxfordshire

Updated: May 12, 2022

Gill Thompson, in the Ridgeway Benefice in the county, is a former Maths teacher and in a feature on Oxford Diocese’s website, she explains her work as an Anna Chaplain among people in later life.

With a population of approximately 2,000, there are six villages in the rural Ridgeway Benefice; 300 of whom are elderly residents living in a purpose-built retirement village. Gill has developed relationships with these residents through spending time one-to-one with them, leading Christian festival services, running discussion groups, visiting residents in end-of-life care, holding funerals and writing a monthly newsletter.

‘There are now more people over the age of 65 than there are under 18s in the country, so there is a real need to serve these people, walk alongside them and help them to know that they are loved by God. Anna Chaplains are there for people of all faiths and none.

‘In many new secular care homes and retirement villages, there is no provision for spiritual care. Some of the residents have been uprooted and moved due to care needs and want to continue to practise their faith in a care facility that may not have the required resources. With more time to contemplate the big questions of life, there are also those residents who seek to make sense of their life. There may be a need for reconciliation with friends or family, a need to feel they are leaving a legacy for future generations, as well as a desire to live life, right up until the end.

‘I [Gill] also have the opportunity to minister to the care staff who have been particularly burdened during the pandemic and have had to be the “family” of many residents when there were restrictions on outside visitors. As well as the retirement village, within the Ridgeway Benefice churches, there is a dedicated pastoral visiting team who keep an eye on each of the villages, supporting and caring for people as needs arise. We can then work together to ensure that the local church is there for the older population.’




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