The three strands
BRF launched The Gift of Years in 2014 to resource the spiritual journey of older people through:
- Advocacy: championing and resourcing ministry among older people, wherever they may be – in churches, in care homes, in their own homes, in the community.
- Joining up the dots: bringing together a wealth of materials and information for those interested in, and working in, this field.
- Anna Chaplaincy: a tried-and-tested ecumenical and community-based approach for supporting older people in the tasks of old age.
The Gift of Years has grown out of a desire to counteract the prevailing view that old age is 'a problem' and to focus instead on the opportunities of older age. There has been an understandable concentration on resourcing ministry among children and young families; The Gift of Years seeks to redress this balance so that a significant focus is given to ministry among older people as well.
At the heart of The Gift of Years lies the Anna Chaplaincy approach to drawing alongside people in their later years (see Anna Chaplaincy to Older People). This approach is ecumenical and community based. Much has been learned since this ministry began in a town in Hampshire and The Gift of Years seeks to make the lessons learned more widely available.
We tend to speak of identity crises affecting teenagers as if it were only adolescents who face such questions. But older age can be a season for facing up to the big questions of life - and having a sympathetic chaplain who can help to explore such issues together is a help and comfort. It is in the milling over of our lives, our experiences, that we make sense of who we have been, who we are and who we will be.