New Anna Chaplain in Maidstone
Updated: Mar 4
Fresh from the new Anna Chaplaincy Online Training Course, Sue Yeo was commissioned as an Anna Chaplain yesterday (21 February). We extend a very warm welcome to her!
'I live within the Canterbury Diocese,' explains Sue, 'and some 18 years ago they introduced Lay Ministry through a variety of modules. I decided to undertake the course on worship leadership, and when my course came to an end, the then minister at my church (St Martin’s, Maidstone) invited me to take care of the services and visits to our local nursing/residential homes. I have now been in this role for some 18 years and have enjoyed every minute.'
'During these 18 years I also became part of the Chaplaincy team at Maidstone Hospital, visiting the wards, taking Sunday worship, and being on call, I became involved in end-of-life ministry, and all that involved: giving comfort and prayer for those who may be alone with no family to join them in their last moments, taking funerals and meeting with grieving families. This mostly involved the older members of a community, but also sadly stillborn babies and grieving young parents.
'But I have always maintained my ministry in the care homes. At times I have felt quite alone, I didn’t come across others involved in this way. Often when I went into homes I would be welcomed by the residents, but sometimes not so much by the staff. “Who exactly was I?" I wasn’t an ordained minister, I wasn’t a curate, so why exactly was I taking the service? “What ‘qualifications' did I have?"
'Anna Chaplaincy has given me an identity, and a whole lot of new friends who I can share my experiences with, and finding out that my problems are not only my own, they can be problems all of us encounter, but that we can also share the happy times.
'Since finishing my training I have recorded services onto DVD as with coronavirus and no longer being able to visit the homes, we can still keep in touch, but I look forward to being able to return to see residents and staff.'
Julia Burton-Jones, Anna Chaplaincy's Church Lead, took part in the commissioning and sends this account:
'It was a privilege on 21 February to present Sue Yeo for commissioning as Anna Chaplain for her parish in Maidstone, St Martin’s with St Hilary’s.
'The service was held on Zoom and Sue explained how joining the local Anna Chaplaincy team in Maidstone led by Elizabeth Bryson had provided her with a large support network, including Irene Shepherd who was commissioned as an Anna Chaplain on 7 February within the North Kent Methodist Circuit; though Sue has been visiting care homes in the parish for years in her role as an authorised lay minister, she only met others in similar roles through Elizabeth’s appointment and a networking day Elizabeth and I held for people in Maidstone involved in care home ministry. Sue says being able to introduce herself in the care homes as a "chaplain" will be helpful, as people understand this role better than "authorised lay minister".'
'As Anna Chaplaincy lead for Canterbury Diocese, I am delighted to welcome Sue into the team, with her many gifts, wealth of experience and deep commitment to older people. During the pandemic, Anna Chaplain Elizabeth Bryson’s coordinator role, with help from the team she has built around her, has enabled all care homes in Maidstone to be offered spiritual care. Sue has created beautiful themed services which the team has delivered to care homes on disks.'
'It is fitting to welcome Sue as a new member of the Network from a parish named after St Martin of Tours, who is credited as the founder of Christian chaplaincy. This has been an exceptionally busy time for the parish as the BBC 1 Sunday morning services for Lent have been filmed there recently. There were cries of delight at the end of the Zoom commissioning service as members of the congregation switched on their TVs and saw their church in all its glory, with hymns recorded there for all the Lent services! St Martin’s is the main focus for BBC 1’s Lent services on 28 February and 21 March, for those of us wanting to envisage Sue in her ministry setting.
'The parish is located on the Shepway Estate, a suburb to the South East of Maidstone which began life as a council estate in the 1930s. It is one of the largest Anglican parishes in the country, with a population of almost 18,000, and is among the most deprived in the country according to Church Urban Fund’s Look Up Tool (CUF Look Up Tool - CUF). There is much need for the groups Sue runs for older people at church – a monthly coffee morning and a monthly afternoon tea – and we trust these will be able to start up again soon.'