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Anna Chaplaincy

Offering spiritual care in later life

Anna Chaplains are named after the widow, Anna, who appears with Simeon in Luke’s gospel; both are good role models of faithful older people. Anna Chaplains are there for people of strong, little or no faith at all. 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.

What does an Anna Chaplain do?

Most importantly, an Anna Chaplain is appointed and authorised by, and sent out under the authority of, their church or local group of ‘Churches Together’.  An Anna Chaplain should never operate under his or her own auspices because of the fundamental need for accountability. Best practice  shows it is essential to have a dedicated line manager who is responsible for supervision.

Different regions will have some obvious and some subtle differences, and this may well require tailoring the chaplaincy approach to the specific needs of those communities. Anna Chaplaincy tends to flourish from the grassroots up wherever there is a desire to see it started up, by one or more people who genuinely catch the vision.

The main purposes of an Anna Chaplain are:

  • Offering spiritual support to older people who are living in care homes and
    sheltered housing complexes, their relatives and staff who look after them.

  • Promoting the spiritual welfare of older people in the wider community,
    particularly those facing challenges living independently.

What might this look like?

Working with older people:

  • Helping older people reflect on their spiritual journey, including the healing of
    memories and dealing with outstanding issues such as guilt or lack of forgiveness.

  • Offering spiritual support so that older people may live more peacefully in their last
    years and prepare to face the end of their earthy lives.

  • Acting as an advocate for the needs of older people in church and in the wider community.

Supporting relatives and carers:

  • Helping and supporting relatives to understand better the spiritual issues that older people face in the latter stages of their lives.

  • Helping and supporting relatives with the responsibilities of caring for older people in their family.

Supporting staff working with older people:

  • Helping staff to understand better the spiritual issues that older people face in the latter stages of their lives.

  • Offering spiritual support to staff working with older people in their care.

  • Helping staff and managers of care homes in the formulation and implementation of the values underlying the care they offer.

Working with churches:

  • Helping inform and coordinate the church’s work with older people.

  • Helping churches identify, recognise and appreciate the value of the contribution that older people can make to church life.

  • Encouraging churches to understand the needs of older people, using them in the best ways and supporting the work undertaken with them.

  • Encouraging and enabling younger generations to consider what constitutes ‘successful ageing’ and so prepare for more positive experiences in older age.

Working with the community:

  • Helping volunteers to understand better the role of Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends.

  • Helping volunteers to understand when and how to call upon the Anna Chaplain to support those living independently in the community.

  • Developing partnerships with local voluntary groups, and running joint events and activities.

Working across the generations:

  • Building partnerships with local schools and groups (Girl Guides, Scouts, choirs, etc.).

  • Increasing understanding of how young and old can learn from each other and enjoy each other’s company.

  • Breaking down stereotypes.

How does it work in practice?

Based on our experience of making Anna Chaplaincy work most effectively, an Anna Chaplain should also:

  • Attend regular staff meetings and collaborate fully with others within their ministry team.

  • Connect with any other Anna Chaplains locally, and others further afield who are engaged in similar work with people in later life, through the national network.

  • Keep up to date with research into issues relevant to the spirituality of ageing.

  • Attend appropriate training courses to continue developing skills and to aid personal spiritual growth.

  • Keep written records of work undertaken to evaluate effectiveness, to aid theological reflection and to draw on when producing written reports for churches with oversight of this work.

  • Contribute to the worship of local churches and, where possible, preach, drawing on their experience of listening to older people and using themes relevant to the issues around ageing, for people both young and old.

Who can be an Anna Chaplain?

The nature of chaplaincy in the 21st century is changing. No longer is chaplaincy solely about one designated, and usually ordained, person serving a single institution. Lay people are now working, increasingly, in this sphere and within teams.

Reflecting these changing trends, an Anna Chaplain can be male or female, lay or ordained, but must be someone recognised by their local church or churches as having the necessary qualities for this ministry to often-vulnerable older people, their relatives and professional carers.

Since each church which employs a paid or voluntary Anna Chaplain authorises and is directly responsible for that person’s conduct and welfare, we recommend that an Anna Chaplain should:

  • Be an ordained minister or recognised/accredited lay minister, local preacher or lay church worker, or be recognised as having such well-developed pastoral skills as to be equipped for the role.

  • Have a commitment to and an understanding of the needs of older people in the latter stages of their lives.

  • Be a good listener able to engage with people’s stories.

  • Be willing to work ecumenically as a member of a local ministry team.

  • Be able to reflect theologically on ministry, and shape liturgy appropriate to care-home settings and for individuals in later life.

  • Be able to act as a point of liaison between older people, their relatives and the management of care homes and their staff.

  • Be comfortable with being a visible and approachable presence at voluntary groups for older people in the area.

  • Be able to develop and supervise volunteers working with older people, for example Anna Friends.

  • Be able to participate in end-of-life and funeral ministry.

  • Understand the nature and provision of residential care.

  • Appreciate the role of being an advocate and be willing to engage with the local media.

  • Be computer literate.

Anyone engaged in ministry as an Anna Chaplain must hold an Enhanced Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) disclosure and be familiar with, and abide by, the safeguarding policies of the church (or churches) that has authorised them. An individual should not be appointed as an Anna Chaplain until their Enhanced DBS disclosure is provided and has been seen by their line manager.

What is an Anna Friend?

Alongside the development of Anna Chaplains, another role has emerged organically: that of an Anna Friend. Such volunteers – well over 150 at the last count – are proving invaluable as they work alongside the Anna Chaplains, often giving a few hours a week to suit their own circumstances and play to their strengths and gifts. In this way, whether as Anna Chaplains or Anna Friends, the Anna Chaplaincy movement is empowering more lay people to be part of supporting older people and meeting their spiritual needs.

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