'The work of Anna Chaplains is critical'


The Gift of Years network has taken a leap forward this year with the dioceses of Rochester and Chichester developing Anna Chaplaincy to Older People and commissioning Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends.

Eight Anna Chaplains and 16 Anna Friends were commissioned at Watling Court in Kent, surrounded by more than 100 family and friends, diocesan staff, clergy and supporters. They will provide spiritual care for older people in the diocese, especially for those living with dementia and their carers.

In Chichester, a celebration was held in the Bishop's Palace Gardens with guests from several care homes, local authorities and a hospice as well as from churches of various denominations. Debbie Thrower, founder of The Gift of Years, officially commissioned Chichester's first Anna Chaplain, Lou Lou Morris, along with 20 new Anna Friends.


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What is Anna Chaplaincy to Older People?

An Anna Chaplain is sent out by their congregation to work with people of strong, little or no faith. Their task is to promote the spiritual welfare of older people, which they do through pastoral visiting, taking a care home service and offering a listening ear. 

The Gift of Years network, more than 40 men and women who have similar community-based ministries among older people, reaches thousands of older people each year. 

Find out more about Anna Chaplaincy to Older People 

Debbie Thrower in Chichester

Meeting the spiritual needs of older people

Leon Steer, Chief Executive of Abbeyfield Kent, addressed those at the Kent service. 

This Anna Chaplaincy work is essential; we have no drug for biographical pain. For 50 years now, we have accepted thousands of older people across Kent during the closing chapters of their lives and, regardless of their past, we care for their physical and mental well-being. Our visiting Chaplains, however, care for their spiritual needs, which, as these people come to the end of their journey in this life, is essential to their well-being.​

A person with dementia’s cognition may be failing, but their spirit is as fresh today as the day the Lord created them, as we have seen on so many occasions in the past in our homes when the spirit responds to those ministering to them through prayer and songs. The work of Anna Chaplains is critical.

With an estimated one million people living with dementia by the year 2025, this is not only placing a substantial burden on health and social care, but on the clergy and churches to provide spiritual support. The work of Anna Chaplains, therefore, is critical both in care homes as well as in the community, because only those with the highest dementia needs are being admitted into residential settings, leaving significant numbers living alone in the community.

How can I get involved?

Pray that the work of the newly commissioned Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends will be effective in providing spiritual support for older people in the Rochester and Chichester dioceses.

Read how The Gift of Years is tackling loneliness in communities

Get in touch with The Gift of Years team if you are interested in getting involved in this ministry.