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  • Debbie Thrower

Whitstable Anna Chaplain up and running

Updated: Dec 8, 2021


On December 5, at a service of Advent carols at All Saints Church, Jayne Edinboro was commissioned as an Anna Chaplain within the Anglican team ministry in Whitstable, Kent. Ministers from across the parishes gathered to support Jayne and were delighted to mark the launch of Anna Chaplaincy in Whitstable under her leadership.


Julia Burton-Jones, Anna Chaplaincy lead for Canterbury Diocese (and BRF church lead for Anna Chaplaincy) gave an address. She talked about the distinctive role of Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends in working alongside others in pastoral roles in churches to ensure the spiritual needs of older people are met.


Team rector, Revd Rachel Webbley, commissioned Jayne, and then fellow reader at All Saints, Denise Blaskett, laid hands and prayed for Jayne’s ministry.

Jayne (third from the right) with the vicar of All Saints Church, Revd Simon Tillotson (on the far right), and the team rector, Revd Rachel Webbley (second from the right), along with other supporters.

This is what Jayne said in the church newsletter about being commissioned Anna Chaplain:


‘I first heard about Anna Chaplains when I was at Canterbury Cathedral being admitted to the Canterbury Diocese as a reader when two people were commissioned as Anna Chaplains. I was very familiar with the role of a chaplain having worked as a volunteer hospital chaplain for many years, but Anna Chaplaincy was not something with which I was familiar. My interest was caught, and I made enquiries.


‘During my time as a hospital chaplain, I became acutely aware that the elderly were almost a forgotten and sidelined generation. Our culture almost venerates youth. Much is made in our churches of youth work and family ministry, but older people seem less important.


‘One day, while talking to an elderly lady who had broken her hip and was, according to the nursing staff, being “difficult”, I had a most illuminating conversation. She suddenly said to me:


“So what do you see when you look at me in my wheelchair? I cannot walk, my teeth are in a jar, my lifeline to hearing are my hearing aids, my eyesight is poor – people think me difficult and cantankerous but in truth I am utterly frustrated. I was not always like this – once I was young and danced the night away. I was young, pretty, fell in love, married, raised a family, had grandchildren, was church warden, sang in the choir but now I am old and useless. No one visits, my family have moved away, my husband died long ago and my church has forgotten me – I have nothing to offer.”


‘I was deeply moved and upset in equal measure. Her words, spoken several decades ago, have remained with me ever since. The elderly, particularly those living with life-changing conditions – dementia and Parkinson’s to name just two – are frequently sidelined almost, dare I say, a nuisance. But to have a balanced society we need to recognise and celebrate both the young and the old. All are loved equally by God.


‘People living with dementia and Parkinson’s struggle to cope with everyday tasks and situations. Church becomes a challenge and not a place of solace and support as they cannot cope with the services; the sermons are too long and too involved.


‘The statistics for those living with dementia are truly frightening. It is anticipated that 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 is living with dementia – 850,000 people. This does not take account of those people who, as yet, do not have an official diagnosis. The toll on family and friends and carers is unimaginable.


‘Discovering Anna Chaplaincy was a light bulb moment for me, as I care passionately about the elderly in our community. During lockdown I signed up for the Anna Chaplaincy course and discussed a possible ministry with Revd Simon Tillotson and Revd Rachel Webbley in the Whitstable team ministry – both were extremely supportive.


‘My vision is to bring Anna Chaplaincy to our community here in Whitstable – to be alongside our elderly, their families and carers, to offer a church service once a month which is accessible and appropriate, to help make our churches places where those living with dementia and other conditions feel welcomed and affirmed, to have Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends (those who support the Anna Chaplains in their role in the community) visiting all our care homes – this is a long term vision.


Anna Chaplains are there for all in our community, those of faith and no faith, to be alongside people in their later years, to walk with them, to be an enabler, a friend, an advocate, a listener, someone on whom they can rely. They can enable spiritual care, which is not necessarily religious. Spiritual care offers love, friendship, hope and comfort in ways that are meaningful to those concerned. Living with dementia and other age-related illnesses should not be a barrier to a relationship with God and being part of a worshipping community.’

 

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