Cherished and affirmed: a partnership of hope

18 March 2021

For the Revd Keith Underhill, minister of Alton Methodist Church, ‘authentic partnership’ runs through the story of Anna Chaplaincy like the name Blackpool runs through a stick of rock

226220_216523685037958_107931552563839_772856_8115306_nAnna Chaplaincy, named after the faithful older widow in Luke’s Gospel story of Simeon and Anna, is a blend of advocacy and pastoral work in partnership with others. This partnership proudly proclaims “Older people matter”.

From initial conversations between Anglicans and Methodists around tables in a church hall in Alton, through to the exciting collaboration with The Bible Reading Fellowship, Anna Chaplaincy is now an established national initiative called The Gift of Years. Working with, and alongside, others has played a pivotal role in this pioneering and innovative ministry.

Being an older person can be isolating and challenging. In a society and Church increasingly made up of older people, there are more and more people who feel themselves to be beyond the interest and concern of the wider community. Anna Chaplaincy seeks to accompany older people at this stage of their life.

Anna Chaplaincy has, and always will be, an ecumenical, community-based, chaplaincy approach to promoting the spiritual welfare of older people. Anna Chaplaincy is a person-centred, non- judgmental ministry for people of strong, little or no faith at all.

It is a way of offering spiritual support  to older people, especially to those living in residential and nursing homes and sheltered housing complexes. The ministry also includes their relatives and carers.

Such a spiritual focus may be in helping people to reflect upon their life’s journey (both the joys and challenges). It may, where appropriate, enable the healing of memories and the celebration of life’s experiences – and so foster hope and resilience.

Anna Chaplains also have a wider role to play within the community as advocates and champions. They draw attention to the contribution older people make to both Church and society.

What started in a Hampshire market town is spreading fast as others grasp its potential and seek to work in partnership with one another. From Lytham in the North West to Rochester in the South East, in cities and in rural settings, Anna Chaplaincy is rapidly growing. Churches, circuits, dioceses, individuals and groups are working together in active, authentic partnerships – recognising that there is a story to tell, a way of engaging to emulate and a ministry to fulfil.

wp_20160412_15_02_17_pro-copyThe Gift of Years

This article originally appeared in the connexion magazine, issue 6.
Banner image and photos: © Liz Underhill, staff and students at Alton College, Debbie Thrower and Keith Underhill, TMCP