Former BBC newsreader appointed as "chaplain to older people" in Alton

Broadcaster Debbie Thrower has been appointed by Churches inAlton as the new "chaplain to older people". The appointment hasbeen funded by The Simeon Trust through The Greater Alton Projector GAP, a partnership of Anglican and Methodist Churches in thetown.

Working as Simeon Chaplain, Debbie will be concerned for thespiritual welfare of people in residential care and shelteredaccommodation in Alton. She is the first Simeon Chaplain in thecountry.

The Simeon Trust was founded to promote the spiritual welfare ofolder people and it is intended that more chaplains will beappointed in other parts of the UK. In the Bible, Simeon was theelderly man who first discerned that Jesus, who was then just ababy being brought by his parents to the Temple, was the Son of Godand long-hoped for Saviour (Luke 2: 25-35).

"Hope is what the new job is all about," said Debbie, who is also alay minister (or Reader) in the Church of England. "I seek to comealongside not only older people but also their relatives, carersand staff working in residential care. It is the clearest possiblemessage from the churches I'll represent that older peoplematter."

Debbie, 52, is a former BBC national newsreader, presenter of SouthToday and was for many years one of the best known faces in theregion presenting ITV's "Meridian Tonight" with FredDinenage.

"It is a fresh challenge for me and it is a great privilege to betaking on this representative role for the congregations who aredemonstrating their commitment to help people at a time in theirlives which can be beset with difficulties," she said.

"As health fails, fears can grow and a chaplain comes alongsidepeople to bring reassurance and hope that the God of love is withus at all stages of our life."

Debbie, who starts as chaplain in January, will be using hermarried surname Thompson.

"I hope to combine this part-time work with my other freelancebroadcasting projects working as Debbie Thrower, and I am veryexcited by the opportunity to become an advocate for older people,"she added. "It is pioneering work in many ways, and it is the dreamthat Simeon chaplains will become commonplace in communities acrossthe country. The need for it is immense, especially with a growingolder population."

Revd Canon Peter Doores, who is the Priest in Charge at St LawrenceChurch, said: "We are pleased to appoint Debbie as Simeon Chaplain.It has been our aspiration for some time to offer older peoplebetter spiritual support and help them to continue to makeimportant contributions to the life of our local community."

"Debbie has both knowledge and experience of the changing needs ofthe elderly," said Revd Keith Underhill from Alton MethodistChurch. "Her journalistic background is a bonus that will make hera valuable asset to this pioneering post."

Since leaving ITV Meridian earlier this year, Debbie has returnedto her former station BBC Radio Solent as guest presenter. Shefronted a weekday show on BBC Radio 2 for five years in the 90'sand regularly appeared on BBC 1's "Songs of Praise."

Six years ago she began the three year training to be a Reader,licensed to preach, teach and lead worship, gaining a Certificateof Christian Theology and Ministry from the University ofWinchester. She is married with two teenage children and lives nearAlresford.

A hi-res photo of Debbie is available here.