Celebrating the first year of cross-church ministry for older people

Anna Chaplaincy
Anna Chaplaincy

A scheme which provides older people with the gift of time and gentle, sensitive and unrushed befriending has reached its first anniversary.

Launched on July 7, 2017, Chichester Anna Chaplaincy is part of a national movement lead by the Bible Reading Fellowship, dedicated to resourcing older people’s spiritual journey.

The chaplaincy aims to provide a citywide, cross-church ministry of presence and compassion for older people, their carers and relatives.

Run under strict safeguarding guidelines, it is for people of all faiths or none.

Chichester Anna Chaplaincy coordinator David Cooke said: “One of the gifts we have is the opportunity to connect with new friends and so uncover and build unity.”

The chaplaincy is continuing to build on the current spiritual provision given by Chichester’s church communities, aiming to meet prioritised gaps and match resources to opportunities.

Since last year’s launch, it has conducted a listening exercise attended by current local registered care home managers and found the greatest need was for visits for people who are bed- and room-bound: “We thus found isolated and lonely older people in unexpected places.”

Other achievements include mapping local demographics and current public sector and voluntary sector services, with the support of local member churches.

The chaplaincy currently focuses on activities at the seven registered care homes in Chichester.

“We hold our own or support regular Christian services in four of these venues and this started our familiarising ourselves with the residents and care staff – and residents’ families.”

Notable occasions include a dementia-friendly carol service at the cathedral, attended by some 70 people, including residents of Augusta Court, plus memorial services at Marriott House and Wellington Grange and an exploration of mortality, ‘Dealing with Death’, at Christ Church, Chichester.

Chaplaincy members also attended a course, ‘Understanding Palliative & End of Life Care’, at St Wilfrid’s Hospice Education Centre, Chichester and a ‘Resource and Refresh’ day, hosted by Highfield Church, Southampton.

Plans for year two are to extend activities to sheltered housing, adding bible studies and focused spiritual discussions, and liaison with the Chichester Dementia Alliance.

‘It brightens up my week’

Since its inception, Chichester Anna Chaplaincy has worked alongside care homes across the city.

Marriott House and Lodge Care Home, for example, has enjoyed regular visits from seven members of the team

Sarah Harding, head of activities, Marriott House and Lodge Care Home, said the chaplaincy’s support has benefited both residents and staff.

Sarah said: “Marriott House and Lodge Care Home were keen to be involved with the Anna Chaplaincy team from the beginning, when we were invited to a meeting of its steering group.

“We were then invited to its launch at a special afternoon tea in July 2017 in the Bishop’s Palace private grounds. Our residents had such a lovely time and were made to feel such a part of the community.

“David and his amazing team have been visiting the home since last year and have been visiting at least once a month! LouLou Morris, the chaplain, and the team have also provided services for everyone to attend.”

One resident at Marriott House said: “I have a visitor every week and I spend time talking to her. This is the only person from the community I see, as my son lives so far away. I am so grateful for these visits and I hope they will continue.”

Another resident said: “David visits me every week and we have a chat. He is someone I would class as a friend and, as I have no one locally that I see any more, he really brightens up my week.”

Marriott Lodge residents said: “Joyce visits us every week and we have lots of chats; she gets involved in what is going on, we really enjoy her visits and nothing is too much trouble for her.”

The team has also been available to provide end-of-life and spiritual care for individuals.

Sarah said: “This is so crucial at the time and allows an individual to have some peace in the last days of their life. These visits have been a really lovely link to the community and allow our residents to experience a one-to-one spiritual and holistic care they might not otherwise receive.”

Support is also available for staff, which ‘is imperative for everyone’.

“Knowing that David and his team are available is such an amazing support. We hope that this relationship can continue and develop.”

See www.chichesterannachaplaincy.org.uk