On Sunday 5 March at Holy Trinity Methodist and United Reformed Church, South Woodham Ferrers, near Chelmsford, Essex, Val Carter was commissioned by her minister, Revd Barry Allen, with church stewards also laying on hands.
‘This is the tale of my journey into Anna Chaplaincy. My first proper job was working in an occupational therapy department of a huge mental health hospital.
‘I spent several years working with people who had a variety of diverse needs including those who were simply institutionalised by years “locked away”.
‘I soon discovered that I was drawn to work with those whose behaviour was challenging or unpredictable. This led to working in locked units and a children’s unit.
‘After a break when I had our children, I trained to be a nurse and then a health visitor in the community with a caseload which included families and children at risk of harm. We also became foster carers for Barnardo’s working with older, hard-to-place children and young people.
‘After retiring, I got increasingly involved with church work and became frustrated by the lack of identified resources to engage people with dementia and their families.’
‘I visited memory worship at Leigh and immediately drew together a group to provide this at church. But still my heart was aching for the group of people in the local residential home who were unable to join us.’
‘So, one day after prayer group, I took my courage in both hands and dropped into the home.’
‘I expected to be fobbed off with an appointment later but was grabbed by the hand by the manager. “I am so glad you are here”, he said, “I have just finished a staff meeting where I said we need contact with a local church. Someone must be looking down on us!”’
‘In 2019, we began monthly memory worship at the home, and I became a volunteer visitor on behalf of the church.
‘Throughout lockdown, I maintained a link and support, so much so that I was asked to lead the memorial service for a member of staff who died of Covid. I also led a funeral for a resident.
‘All these experiences led me to feel that what I was doing was more than visiting and was more like chaplaincy, so I joined a Zoom session on the subject and was introduced to Anna Chaplaincy. This has answered my desire for a formal support system and recognition that this is the work of the church.
‘My commissioning service on 5 March was an amazing experience. I was anointed and set apart for the work while being “sent out” by my congregation with stewards and minister Revd Barry Allen laying their hands on me. An incredibly special moment.’
‘So, in a way, I am setting out as a new Anna Chaplain and on the other hand, it feels like all my life and experience has been leading to this moment. God is going ahead of me, and I suspect that this will develop and grow in the future to include work in the local community.’