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  • Stuart Holley

Val Bantin Commissioned as Anna Chaplain with Edenbridge Churches in Covenant

Representatives of churches of all denominations in the Kent town of Edenbridge gathered at St Peter and St Paul’s Church for Evensong on Sunday 15 August. In a service led by Bishop Simon Burton-Jones Anthea Staples was licensed as a reader and Val Bantin as the town’s first Anna Chaplain.

The pandemic delayed Val’s commissioning. She had taken Rochester Diocese’s pastoral care course, before then completing Anna Chaplaincy training in 2019. A key area of ministry for which she has been commissioned is providing chaplaincy for the large new care home in the town, Edenbridge Manor, which provides nursing, residential, dementia and respite care. Staff are keen for her to begin her visits. During Covid Val has been ensuring that older people in the congregation are not forgotten, delivering copies of the Sunday service and pew sheet to their homes.

As chair of Edenbridge Churches in Covenant and Val’s vicar, Fr Stephen Mitchell was pleased to see the culmination of Val’s training. Anthea was also glad that her licensing as reader was within the same service as Val’s commissioning. In her previous parish in Lichfield Diocese, Anthea had heard about and been interested in Anna Chaplaincy; much of her own work as reader has been funeral and bereavement ministry, often with older people.

The service being held on the day we marked the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Bishop Simon preached on images of Mary which have been distorted by the celebrity status she has acquired. Mary feared God and felt humility in his presence, she was hungry for God and knew he would satisfy that hunger with great food. In her words in The Magnificat she imagines a ‘new world pecking order’. Bishop Simon concluded,

News of a pregnancy is usually a cause for celebration, but it also represents a risk, which many are familiar with. We can bring a child into the world, but we cannot guarantee how they will experience it or leave it and Mary suffered more than most in this as she watched her adult son be tortured to death. We can’t really go to the place Mary went emotionally because it is so dark and awful, but many mothers have had to in history. Her value to the dispossessed in our world cannot be overstated. Her response to God’s call on her life, a model for courage and faith.

After the service refreshments were shared and there was opportunity for friends from the churches in the Covenant to congratulate Val and offer her their prayerful support. The partnership between churches has been a vehicle for many effective projects across Edenbridge, including Parish Nursing and The BRIDGES community centre, based in an old chapel. Edenbridge Churches in Covenant will provide a wonderful home for Val’s new ministry as Anna Chaplain. Welcome to the Anna Chaplaincy Network, Val!

Val shared her faith journey and what led her to being commissioned as Anna Chaplain:

I was born in Farnborough, Kent and baptised at St Luke’s Anglican church Bromley Common. Attended St Augustine’s Sunday school as it was closest but left after joining the Girls Life Brigade (attached to the Methodist Church on Bromley Common) and thereafter attended Sunday school there as also had to attend church parade monthly. I became a full member of the Methodist church at the age of 14.

After spending a year in California I started work at Bank of America. I continued to worship at the Methodist church and helped run the youth club at the church. I’m not sure how it came about, but we had a link with an Anglican church in Brixton and I took a group of their youngsters and ours to Jersey two years running for a holiday. Whilst helping with the youth club I was involved with youth services that happened at the church and after arranging and giving the address at one such service, I was encouraged to train for a Methodist Lay Preacher. This I did over two years and preached around the Orpington circuit.

My husband and I were married at Wesley’s Chapel in the City of London and I attended there as we lived in Islington. The service was very similar to the Anglican Communion service and I was present at the first joint communion service with an Anglican Bishop.

We moved to Edenbridge in 1986 when my daughter was two. As there were no local Methodist churches I started attending the Parish Church where I received a warm welcome. My son was born the following year and both my children were involved in the choir and my daughter was a server.

I have been a regular attendee since. I was confirmed into the Anglican church at Rochester Cathedral in December 1988. I have been a member of PCC numerous times, set up the Parish Office in 1992 and worked for Fr Stephen for 4 years, and currently involved with Fabric and Fundraising.

I am a regular reader and intercessor but have not felt called to become a Reader. Four years ago I completed the Caring Concerns course. After completion I asked Fr Stephen what ministry I could do and he thought the Anna Chaplaincy would be suitable as I have had some experience with elderly relatives, one of whom lived with dementia. Julia Burton-Jones had also visited Edenbridge and given a presentation about Anna Chaplaincy to the Edenbridge Churches in Covenant. I contacted Julia and the rest, as they say, is history.....



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