Could you be an Anna Chaplain?

Meet Marion, an Anna Chaplain from Southampton.

What makes an Anna Chaplain?

BRF’s ecumenical Anna Chaplaincy network is much more diverse than its namesake – the faithful older woman who received the infant Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:36-38) – suggests. This community-based model for ministry to older people attracts a wide range of dedicated people: men and women of all ages and backgrounds, from all over the UK. In fact, they're not even all called ‘Anna Chaplains’ – many discover our model having already been doing this work under another name.

Anna Chaplains do have to be good listeners and part of a congregation who will support them as in turn they support older people in the community (of strong, little or no faith at all).

Take Marion (pictured below, right, with Revd Dr Erica Roberts), an Anna Chaplain based in Southampton. She explains how over the years, unknown to her, God was preparing her to work in this ministry...

Meet Marion

My interest in older people began very early in my life, as I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandmother. From a young age I was fascinated by history, and it did not take me long to realise that here was a source of living history! I would spend time asking her about events large and small that she remembered. By the time I was 14, my grandmother came to live with us and did so for the rest of her life.

At the age of 11, I joined the Junior Red Cross, as even then I felt a strong calling to be a nurse. One of our activities was to go into a local care home on Saturdays, make the tea and talk to the residents. I had no idea then how valuable this experience would be in my later ministry. When I was 18, I started nurse training, working on both acute and long-stay geriatric wards, which I really enjoyed.

All the time I was growing up I had believed in God, but I had not attended church regularly and had very little understanding of the relevance of God in my life. I married while still a teenager and then, in my early 20s, a devastating life experience set me on the path of seeking God and looking for his plan in my life. I gave my life to Christ when I was 24 and started to attend a very community-minded, socially active church. I had my sons shortly after this and felt that I was answering God's call on my life by caring for my family.

A call to the poor, the weak and the vulnerable

As my children grew up, however, I realised that God was calling me to go out into my community and love the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. At this time I worked full-time for my church, as the manager of a community centre. We hosted all sorts of activities, from breakfast and lunch for the homeless, to toddler clubs, Bible studies, clubs for those with physical disabilities, youth clubs, a specialist group for people with learning disabilities and groups for older people. I feel that this time in my life gave me a very broad experience of working alongside many different people, some of whom were the weakest and most vulnerable in our community, and that this experience supports my current ministry.

I have always enjoyed learning and undertook as much training as I could, to give me a better understanding of the various areas I was working in. The courses that stand out now as particularly relevant to my current work among older people are the Acorn Trust listening course and my training in Christian counselling. Both these courses helped me develop skills as a reflective listener, which is such an important part of chaplaincy work. I also spent two years at Bible college, one as a student and one on their ministry team.

Just as I retired from being a disability team administrator, Revd Dr Erica Roberts was commissioned as the older people's chaplain for Southampton, and I started to work as part of the team going into care homes to take church services.

Commissioned as an Anna Chaplain

Fourteen months ago, I had the joy and privilege of being commissioned as an Anna Chaplain by the Bishop of Southampton, being specifically sent to the east side of the city, which has significant areas of deprivation. I am now involved in many aspects of the work of an Anna Chaplain, including care homes, lunch clubs, tea clubs, one-to-one visiting and Vintage Adventure (Messy Vintage), but I know that I can look back and be grateful to God for the way he has led, equipped and guided me to the place where I am now.

I can look back and be grateful to God for the way he has led, equipped and guided me to the place where I am now.

How you can get involved

Have you ever considered Anna Chaplaincy for your church’s pastoral work with older people - or for yourself? Email thegiftofyears [at] brf.org.uk (subject: Anna%20Chaplaincy%20information%20pack)  to request an information pack.

You can also find out more about BRF’s Anna Chaplaincy.

Would you like to donate to support this ministry? You can make a one-off donation or set up a direct debit to give regularly.

Donate to BRF's Anna Chaplaincy