We are busy taking stock of what was an amazing get-together yesterday of the Anna Chaplaincy network as we held our annual gathering… online.
These were some of the words and phrases which kept surfacing yesterday as more than 80 of us joined on a Zoom call for the whole day (with some breaks in between!).
Initial feedback indicates that people found the day 'inspiring', 'stimulating' and reinvigorating.'
It was the eighth such annual gathering of the expanding network and while we missed being together physically in one place as was customary pre-pandemic, the online format has its advantages. We were able to welcome participants from Orkney to Guernsey, from Devon to Cumbria, Northumbria, Scotland, Wales, the Midlands, the southeast and East Anglia… and many points in between!
There was a distinctly Celtic flavour to the day as we were joined by colleagues from Irish Chaplaincy which caters for the many, now older, Irish men and women who came to England in search of work in the 1950s and 60s, as well as the traveller community and those in prison who have Irish heritage.
Self-care was an important element of what we discussed in break-out groups. Chief executive of Irish Chaplaincy Eddie Gilmore has touched on the subject, too, in a post he's just made this morning on his own blog pages that you might like to read: irishchaplaincy.org.uk/10996.
Joining me with his guitar, (writes Debbie Thrower) Eddie and I led worship with a Celtic resonance at the beginning and end of the day.
Our overall theme for the gathering was 'Growing in Confidence: Stories of humanity, wonder and gratitude'. We gave thanks for the fact that numerically the network has grown from 160 in 2021 to more than 230 this year, so far. Yet we were mindful of the fact that confidence is lacking in many of the older people among whom we minister. Covid-19 has taken a toll on people's ability to socialise with others when fears of contagion are still present.
However, there was plenty to celebrate throughout the day and a highlight was the contribution from the bishop of Portsmouth, Jonathan Frost, who gave a ringing endorsement of Anna Chaplaincy which he wants to see available in every parish in his diocese of south Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. He likened this work, supporting older people spiritually, to the dance of God's kingdom where all are welcome to take part, saying that this is counter-cultural but it is undoubtedly the work of the Holy Spirit.
We were also able to show our brand new film about Anna Chaplaincy which showcased the work of Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends in the north and south – Bury in Lancashire and Rochester in Kent.
Photos from Anna Chaplaincy video
We heard from a care home manager speaking from the front line of Covid, of its impact on her residents and staff and their spiritual care; from a Baptist Anna Chaplain who uses puppets and her ventriloquism skills in her intergenerational work; and from a ground-breaking project filming older people sharing their life wisdom for the benefit of those younger than themselves– The Ageing Journey – initiated by Time to Talk Befriending (a south-coast charity with its own team of Anna Chaplains).
We marvel at the wealth of experience and gifts among our burgeoning network.
Photos from The Ageing Journey video