• Debbie Thrower

Three new Anna Chaplains – plus Anna Friends – for Bury, Manchester

Updated: Jan 28

Rt Revd Mark Davies, bishop of Middleton with: Joyce Strickland, Anne Brandish (front left row); Ian Orrell, Fran Lawson, Michelle Ryan (back left row); and Steph Mawhinney, Beverley Fraser, Jackie Smith, Robina Jones, and Sue Orrell (right row).

These things take time but what a joy when all that work finally results in a mass commissioning! The bishop of Middleton, Rt Revd Mark Davies, has commissioned a team of three Anna Chaplains and seven Anna Friends at a service at All Saints Church, Stand, in Whitefield, Bury, last weekend (Sunday 23 January 2022).

There is now a strong team heading up Whitefield and Unsworth Anna Chaplaincy. They are Sue Orrell, Fran Lawson and Revd Stephanie Mawhinney, (pictured from left to right above). Together with their volunteer Anna Friends, all are keen to work in partnership with other churches as well as other organisations working locally with older people.

‘A beautiful thing for God’

Bishop of Middleton, Mark Davies, presided at the service supported by Revd Donna Williams, the incumbent at St Andrew’s, Hillock and St George’s, Unsworth, and Revd Michele Ryan, curate. The Anna Chaplains and some of the Friends contributed prayers, a reading and a brief overview of Anna Chaplaincy.

Bishop Mark spoke about the influence of older people in his earlier life with some of his best lessons on prayer being listening to his grandma praying. He recalled the time he had spent in India with Mother Teresa and the Sisters (The Missionaries of Charity) and the impression it had made on him. He said that Anna Chaplaincy was also ‘a beautiful thing for God’.

It was a joyful service attended by members of the three churches as well as people from the community, other churches and organisations. There was a time for celebration and exchanging information over refreshments after the service.

Steph Mawhinney writes:

‘I was ordained deacon in July 2021 and joined the team at Hillock and Unsworth, where the possibility of launching Anna Chaplaincy was already under discussion.

Our vicar Donna invited me to consider becoming an Anna Chaplain as part of my curacy. My first reaction was that this would be a good opportunity to develop my skills in ministry with older people, which is not an area where I have much previous experience.

As I reflected I realised that, following my mother’s death with dementia earlier in the year and being aware of how difficult lockdown had been for older friends and relatives, this was matched by my own growing desire to reach out to older people.

I came to the conclusion that God had brought everything together to enable me to do this with the support both of a local team and the national Anna Chaplaincy network.’

Fran Lawson says:

‘My name is Fran Lawson. I live in Manchester and have two grown-up daughters and two granddaughters aged 17 and 13. I have attended my local church for over 40 years and have always played an active role there. I have been a churchwarden for many, many, years and also an ALM (Authorised Lay Minister) which keeps me very busy.

I also help run a Food Pantry at our church, which is very rewarding, helping vulnerable families on a very low income and even having opportunities to pray for some of them who are struggling with various issues. I have been retired for a few years now and I’m busier than ever. When we had a presentation on Anna Chaplaincy at our PCC, I thought it was a wonderful organisation, but not for me as I was already so busy. I went to a follow-up meeting and God had other ideas, because I felt very strongly prompted to sign up as Anna Chaplain. My ALM elective is Prayer and Spirituality and I feel this will go very well with being an Anna Chaplain. I am looking forward to what God has in store for me in this very exciting new chapter in my life.’

Sue Orrell tell us:

‘When I retired I was able to become more involved again in the life of my local church. The rector asked me if I would like to be a lay assistant at the Eucharist. I then also became involved in taking communion to one (the largest) of the care homes in the area on a regular basis.

I went to the ‘knit and natter’ group run there by another member of our church (strictly nattering only for me!) which helped me get to know others in the home and I began to visit residents individually in addition to the communion service.

I also decided to take the ALM Course (Pastoral elective) and was commissioned in September 2019. Around this time I also agreed with another residential home to do a monthly communion service there.

Communion in the third residential home in Whitefield was covered by another lay assistant, as were the small number of home communions requested.

I have, for many years, been drawn to the ministry to older people and this was reinforced when my father had dementia and when my mother later came to live with us and seeing her struggle with mobility and breathing.

I was looking for worship resources to suit the differing needs of residents in the homes when I went to the Anna Chaplaincy website. I began wondering whether this was for me? It seemed such a positive approach to ministry to older people and the conviction that I should explore this grew stronger as the other members of our small pastoral team became unable to continue for a variety of reasons.

In view of our ageing congregation, I felt a needed to try to grow something for the future but I was not sure that this was something I could achieve as a sole Anna Chaplain in our area, especially following the pandemic.

I have always been a great believer in the strength of working as a team. Then things began to happen with the prayerful support of clergy in our neighbouring mission partnership. Their curate (Michelle Ryan) who was a hospital chaplain, started to explore this with me with phone calls to Alex Burn (BRF’s Anna Chaplaincy coordinator) and other Anna Chaplains who were very supportive.

Then a new curate (Steph Mawhinney) and one of the churchwardens (Fran Lawson) felt called to this ministry. We made presentations to our PCCs and congregations and seven Friends from our parishes came forward to be commissioned. I believe that this gives us a good base on which to build as we come out of the pandemic. We need to make the most of this to establish the ministry firmly during the next two years while we have Steph.’