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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

St Luke’s Lighthouse Church – a beacon for Anna Chaplaincy

Updated: May 30, 2022

The commissioning of Maggie Smithard and Sarah Grinsell as Anna Chaplains on 22 May 2022

On a sunny Sunday morning in Hawkinge, near Folkestone, two new Anna Chaplains joined the growing team in Canterbury Diocese. Maggie Smithard and Sarah Grinsell are members of St Luke’s Lighthouse Church, both with a long-held love of older people and a desire to serve them. Both have cared for parents with dementia and worked in care and support roles with older people.

Maggie and Sarah completed the Kent online training course for Anna Chaplaincy last Autumn. Anna Chaplaincy lead for Canterbury Diocese, Julia Burton-Jones, said ‘it was wonderful to get to know them both and sense their commitment to older people, and the skill and experience they bring to Anna Chaplaincy which will be a blessing to the wider Canterbury Diocese team, as well as older people in the parish’.

Julia spoke at the service to introduce the congregation to Anna Chaplaincy. Maggie and Sarah were then interviewed by vicar Rob Grinsell (who is Sarah’s husband) before he commissioned them. Rob preached about how we move from being a follower of Christ to a disciple through responding to God’s call to serve. At the end of the service, there was a time of open prayer where members of the congregation prayed for Maggie and Sarah in their new ministry.

Maggie Smithard, Sarah Grinsell and her husband Revd Rob Grinsell, vicar of Hawkinge

Homemade cakes were served afterwards, and there was further opportunity for Julia to speak with members of the church about their own older family members’ spiritual needs. It was encouraging to sense the love for Maggie and Sarah, how the congregation valued them and recognised their commitment to older people in the community. The church family will be a prayerful support as they reach out to older people in Hawkinge.

Maggie first volunteered with older people in her teenage years, visiting a local care home before training as a psychiatric nurse. In a former church, she established a day centre for people with dementia. Later she took on pastoral care coordination and parish nursing for another church. She is excited to see how God has led her into this new role from her early adult life as a nurse and looks forward to drawing on the skills developed in her previous roles to bless the older people of the parish.

Sarah also brings skill and experience to ministry with older people. In her working life, she facilitates music for health workshops in care homes in other parts of Kent, particularly with people with dementia, and finds this role hugely rewarding, though wishing sometimes that she could speak about spiritual things with residents she meets. She has always enjoyed spending time with older people but caring for her mum, her aunty and her dad in their later years deepened her concern, awareness and commitment. Volunteering at St Luke’s community café has also given her insights and enriched her life. The church’s community café, the Lighthouse Café, is a vibrant hub which sees large numbers of local people attending each week, including a group for people with young-onset dementia.

Sarah and Maggie will work together and support one another but will take on distinctive roles in the parish. Maggie will focus on reaching out to isolated older people, working with the local community warden employed by Kent County Council. Sarah will come alongside residents in the local care home with which her husband Rob has strong connections, listening out for those spiritual conversations she is not able to have during her music for health visits outside the parish. Both will continue links with the Lighthouse Café and work with its coordinator and volunteers.

Reflecting afterwards on her commissioning, Maggie said:

‘Being commissioned as an Anna Chaplain feels to me like I’ve come home after being on a very long journey for a very long time. God has been with me on that journey, leading me and guiding me, never leaving my side, and I am so excited that God has opened the door into Anna Chaplaincy for Sarah and myself. I feel so blessed and so thankful to be part of an amazing ministry that cares so beautifully for older people. Thank you, Julia and Rob, for making our service so special.’

Sarah said:

‘It was a very special day being commissioned to become an Anna Chaplain. A joy to have Julia there, to start this journey with Maggie and to know God’s presence and that he still has work for us to do! I feel nervous about the next steps but at peace too, knowing he goes before me and will lead the way.’



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