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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Welcome to Witney's new Anna Chaplain

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

Julia Bee

Former teacher Julia Bee was commissioned as the new Anna Chaplain for Witney, Oxfordshire, recently (September 26, 2021). BRF's Head of marketing, communications and strategic relationships, Karen Laister joined in the service.

Bishop of Dorchester, Julia Bee, the Rector of Witney and Karen Laister from BRF.

Anna Chaplain Julia Bee with the Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Revd Gavin Collins

Karen Laister said, 'It was an enormous privilege to attend the commissioning of Julia at Witney Parish Church. There was a sense of excitement in the church as Julia was commissioned with other people embarking on new ministries. The commissioning was rooted in a sense of the whole church being part of these new initiatives and prayer being at the heart of them. Julia's journey of becoming an Anna Chaplain was very much a nudge of the Spirit and it was inspiring to hear her vision for this ministry in her local parish and with other chaplains in Oxfordshire'.

Julia brings significant skills and experience to her new role. We asked her to introduce herself and describe what had led to her becoming an Anna Chaplain:

'I've lived in Witney for over thirty years and have worshipped at St Mary's Witney since September 2019.

My first career was in teaching, but in the late 1980s, I felt that God was asking me to step out into a new service for him, through ordained ministry. We moved from Nottinghamshire to Oxfordshire in 1991 and in 1998, despite the difficulties of clarifying such a call, I was offered a place at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford on the two-year Diploma in Ministry Course. Still without a clear ministry that was recognised by others, nevertheless back at my parish church, I pioneered work on a new estate with a small team, which lasted until the work was taken on and developed further by someone else a while later.

In 2004 I began training as a spiritual director and have been involved with spiritual accompaniment ever since.

In 2015 I completed a course in spiritual care for the dying. Almost immediately I found myself caring for a close family member, for her last few months and caring for her as she died. I have worked as a volunteer at a Hospice in Oxford and briefly as a ward chaplain at a city hospital. It has been an utter privilege to come alongside others at such a crucial time in their lives.

During this last difficult year or more, I noticed how isolation was affecting a high percentage of my spiritual direction clients. My own family experienced loss and bereavement during this time, which was compounded by not being able to physically be present with each other. However, God has wonderfully provided other ways for me to show care towards friends and family and the whole experience of the last eighteen months has highlighted the primacy that God places towards loving and caring for each other.

Reflecting on this time, I believe that God was preparing more space in my heart for a new ministry that I wasn't yet aware of. Our church doors opened once again in July for the first time since lockdown. Before I knew it, my rector, the Revd Canon Toby Wright, was asking me if I'd ever heard of Anna Chaplaincy and might I be interested? That was less than three months ago. It feels that my feet have hit the ground running and I haven't stopped since. I'm loving it! A few days on from my commissioning and I am greatly looking forward to the opportunity this new ministry offers - to become an advocate and spiritual support for older people in our local community and in the care homes "on our patch". I've been networking with many people already and I'm very much looking forward to my training which begins in November and getting to know other Anna Chaplains in this amazing community.'

Toby Wright said: 'It was a great joy to have the commissioning service for Julia as an Anna Chaplain in Witney Benefice. The Bishop of Dorchester commissioned six people to new ministries and Julia as part of this. We are thrilled to be welcoming Anna Chaplaincy to help work in cooperation with other members of the ministry team to aid our ministry to older people across the Benefice and to reach out to others in love.'




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