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Anna Chaplaincy logo TM RGB (0Anna Chaplaincy celebrates 10 years supporting older people

The annual Candlemas Carol Service in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, on 2nd February, will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Anna Chaplaincy for Older People. After a modest beginning in Alton, Hampshire, the former broadcaster and Licensed Lay Minister Debbie Thrower has seen her vision for the spiritual care of older people catch hold across the country and across the denominations. There are, to date, 100 specially commissioned Anna Chaplains (or people in equivalent roles) and a wide network of Anna Friends.

Named after the faithful widow Anna, who appears with Simeon in Luke’s gospel, Anna Chaplaincy is an ecumenical, community-based network that supports older people and their carers, both in person and through advocacy and training. Anna Chaplaincy is a ministry of The Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) and is rooted in the mission of the local church.

As Debbie Thrower explains: ‘Our vision is to see an Anna Chaplain in every small- and medium-sized community in the country, and for the Anna Chaplain name to become synonymous with spiritual care for older people.’

Debbie’s vision for this work arose from personal experience: “As I accompanied both my parents in their old age and saw how much their faith grew despite the many challenges, it led directly to the work I, and other Anna Chaplains, do now: helping to support men and women in the third, and increasingly fourth, age of greater dependency, often among those living with dementia.

“Thanks to BRF, we’ve grown from one Anna Chaplain, me, in Alton in 2014, to a national network more than 100-strong, plus dozens of Anna Friends – volunteers working with them.”

An essential requirement is that each Anna Chaplain is appointed and authorised by, and accountable to, their local church or group of ‘Churches Together’. The work is managed, supervised and always undergirded by prayer.

When Debbie first started work in Alton, Hampshire, one of the first people she talked to was Bob Weighton. Born on 29 March 1908 and now officially Britain’s oldest man, super-centenarian Bob was happy to share his ideas with Debbie and they have become firm friends. He’s delighted to see how her work has grown:

“I’m remarkably pleased and I rejoice that while I’ve been in Alton this idea of Anna Chaplains has sprung up and is flourishing. Before this Alton was an unknown place and now it’s the centre of all this and I’m very chuffed about that.

“The clergy in the town saw that so many people, like me, were retiring to Alton, and moving into care homes, and they thought they should do something to support them, and they appointed Debbie. Someone in the Methodist church suggested she come and talk to me. I gave her a few ideas and we’ve been friends ever since. It all stems from that, much to my astonishment and exceeding gratitude.”

If you or your church would like to know more about BRF’s Anna Chaplaincy for Older People, please go to annachaplaincy.org.uk or email annachaplaincy@brf.org.uk

You can also browse Anna Chaplaincy’s unique resources for older people, from the daily notes Bible Reflections for Older People, to books around later life and dementia, on brfonline.org.uk

The Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) is a Body in Association of CTE and CTBI.

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