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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

St Barnabas’ warm welcome for Anna Chaplaincy pioneer

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

What a splendid day out at the College of St Barnabas, Lingfield, Surrey, this week (writes Debbie Thrower). I accepted the invitation enthusiastically to go to St Barnabas and give a talk and was met by the community’s chaplain, Revd Derek Chandler and his wife Hayley, who gave us a tour. Derek had asked me to address the question: ‘What does pastoring retired pastors look like in the 21st Century?’

It was an opportunity to speak about Anna Chaplaincy to many of the residents, staff and trustees. St Barnabas is an attractive arts and crafts-designed complex, set on nine acres with almshouses and a care wing built around a central chapel. It was the vision of Canon William Henry Cooper who also founded St Luke’s Hospital in London. St Barnabas is justifiably proud of its foundation in the early 1900s as a purpose-built community for retired clergy, enjoying a collegiate lifestyle, and with a warm welcome nowadays for retired Christians and others of many backgrounds.

It was very interesting to be shown around the buildings which include libraries, two chapels as well as a refectory where most residents choose to take their meals together and where my husband and I joined them for lunch that day, Tuesday 6 June.

A bonus was to meet up again over lunch with Brother Anselm (pictured above), a renowned iconographer and formerly part of the community at Alton Abbey in Hampshire. I hadn’t realised that when Alton Abbey closed, Brother Anselm had moved to make a new home at St Barnabas, just six months ago.

In my talk, I spoke about the particular challenges retired clergy and others who have long experience of pastoring others, may experience in later life and explained what is distinctive about the Anna Chaplaincy approach to supporting people spiritually in their older age.

It was a real privilege to hear from retired priests, missionaries and clergy spouses who in many cases had moved home numerous times before. They spoke warmly of the caring staff and managers at St Barnabas. I was introduced to Pam, for example, who has worked there for 35 years and loves chatting with residents.

I discovered that one Anna Chaplain, who ministers in another part of the country, knows St Barnabas well. Her own parents lived there until they died a few years ago and she told me, ‘It’s a lovely place, with many happy memories for me of visiting my folks there. At one point I was there every weekend.’

I was following in fine footsteps as a speaker. A few months ago BRF chair of trustees Bishop Colin Fletcher spoke at St Barnabas, as did writer and Anglican priest Revd Michael Jackson, author of Still Love Left: Faith and hope in later life (YouCaxton, 2021) on another occasion. Some Anna Chaplains will recall hearing Michael talk about his book at an online annual network gathering in 2021.




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