How to be an Anna Chaplain when the doors are locked

First published on: 13th September 2021

By Joan Grenfell, Anna Chaplain

Suddenly, without warning, the doors were shut. Access to care home residents was no longer possible.

As the Anna Chaplain for two care homes in my parish, what was I to do?

I decided to keep Thursday as my ‘Anna Chaplain’ day, praying for residents and staff and keeping in touch by phone.

That seemed to be all I could do, until I received an email from one of the care homes asking if I use Skype. My reply of “No, but can I learn?” helped open the door to a continuing ministry

I was able to offer a fortnightly service on Skype, and often used Zoom through the year, to offer worship on All Soul’s Day, Armistice Day, Carols by Candlelight (where family members connected), Candlemas, Ash Wednesday and Easter Day.

Perhaps the most necessary and moving service was the service of Light, Thanksgiving and Remembering, which happened on 23 March as part of the National Day of Reflection.

The degree of emotion felt by both residents and staff, evidenced during the service, showed how necessary this opportunity to reflect had been.

I have kept contact less technically with my second care home on Advent, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter Day, Pentecost and Ascension, as well as cards sent in to residents and regular phone conversations with the manager.

I reflect on a year of much sadness.  More residents than I could have imagined have lost their lives to the virus. However, there is movement and a gradual opening of doors and light ahead.

I am the named visitor for four residents who have no other visitor in one of the Care Homes, and so I can take and offer the Sacrament in person to these (after a lateral Flow Test each visit). We follow the time of worship talking and simply enjoying being people together again! I sense growth happening here in the months ahead.

When I am able to resume the ministry in person, I will see empty chairs and regular worshippers missing. However, God willing and in his grace, I will pick up the ministry once more, hopefully bringing God’s love and presence to residents and staff alike.


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