Webinar brings together many interested in seeing Anna Chaplaincy reach further into Scotland
Our second joint webinar in recent months with Edinburgh-based charity Faith in Older People attracted significant interest with more than 50 participants yesterday afternoon.
They weren't just from Scotland either – there were people taking part from Wales, Northern Ireland and various parts of England as well.
Following the 90-minute event, attendees made comments such as:
'I found it a real inspiration to be part of this event.'
'It is extraordinary that at this time when churches are closing and media mainstream is dismissive of Christianity and old people, a quiet revolution is being worked.'
One participant voiced the view that:
'We should show deeper respect and humility before older people. I'm getting that from Anna Chaplaincy. It's really refreshing.'
After presentations from each of the BRF Anna Chaplaincy team, discussion time ranged over a variety of topics, such as the appetite for training in Scotland to complement the existing national and regional online courses being run for new Anna Chaplains and others seriously considering becoming such chaplains.
There was talk of much-needed support for people with dementia and carers. One participant said:
'There is no way of knowing what is going on when you pray with with someone with dementia… Just as God loves children, so God has a special relationship with people with dementia.'
Another questioner asked about using music more, especially well-known hymns when working with people with dementia.
Julia Burton-Jones, Anna Chaplaincy training and development lead agreed wholeheartedly with the therapeutic benefits of using music in such ministry, citing a helpful book to which she has contributed a chapter, 'Creating dementia-friendly worship', along with other writers Joanna Collicutt and Bishop Robert Atwell for example. It is entitled God in Fragments: Worshipping with those living with dementia (Church House Publishing, 2020).
She also recommended Sally Magnusson's book about her late mother which tells of how music and singing were part of her care plan for living with dementia: Where Memories Go: Why dementia changes everything (Two Roads, 2014).
What to do next, in terms of expanding Anna Chaplaincy in Scotland which, according to Scottish Government figures will see a 50% rise in the population over 60 by 2033, is the big question?
Some rural parts of Scotland are currently seeing 21% of their population in the over 60 age category, compared with 17% over 60 in the population at large. In the UK as a whole, there are an estimated 1.6 million people aged 85 years and over; and by 2043, this is projected to nearly double to 3.0 million.
There are several Anna Chaplaincy network members in Scotland, in the Highlands and Islands, including a new Anna Chaplain in Upper Clydesdale in the southwest of Scotland. Angela Brydson was commissioned on Saturday (2 April) and is a deacon in the Church of Scotland. Anna Chaplaincy is open to lay and ordained men and women.
Another newly commissioned Anna Chaplain from the north-east of England who was on the call stressed the importance of tackling such issues ecumenically. 'It is the cross-denominational aspect (of Anna Chaplaincy) which is so significant,' she said.
'We hope to organise in our church a group of older people to meet. A lot of older people do things which go unnoticed. We will ask what they want to do. Lunch clubs, drop-in sessions and coffee mornings are all well and good. But what you are opening our eyes to is a more sophisticated understanding of what is going on spiritually in our later years.'
One man, who was clearly struck by the demographic statistics quoted in relation to the expected growth in the aged population, wrote afterwards:
'It occurred to me this very much included me, and many of us who were on the call today. It is therefore not a question of the older people we are trying to reach "out there", separate from us. It very much includes us all. This is quite sobering!
'As a church minister it raises questions for me as to how we begin, and sustain, a healthy yet sensitive conversation about the challenges of getting older, making the best of the later years, and our journey toward inevitable death. So often we just avoid the issues really, and hope "living" will take care of itself. I have the privilege of officiating at funerals, and they always have the profound effect of bringing me closer to my own sense of mortality. There is so much positive untapped energy and experience in those of older years, and it was a joy to see and hear so much enthusiasm in seeking out how we can best serve and support the community where God has called us to be. I think just "getting the conversation going" about older years is a tremendous step forward; we need to bring it into the light, and be honest about the challenges it brings; and whatever the circumstances of the individual, everyone matters...this is very much a "you matter ministry"… yet not for our glory, but for his.'
Two key questions were posed to all the group, to focus our future thinking:
What are the most pressing issues for you?
What do you think Anna Chaplaincy can offer in response?
You don't have to have been on the call to mull over these two questions and both we, and Maureen O'Neill, director of Faith in Older People, would be very interested to hear your responses. Contact us all via email: email@example.com or write to us at
BRF, 15 The Chambers, Vineyard, Abingdon, OX14 3FE.