Resourcing the spiritual journey of older people

How Anna Chaplaincy began

The story so far

Anna Chaplaincy came about through a local willingness among Christians in the Hampshire market town of Alton (under the banner of the Greater Alton Project) to work more collaboratively in various ministries across the denominations. It began with the signing of a covenant in 2009 between the Anglicans and Methodists.

Working together, they recognised that more should be done for older people. A job specification was drawn up and a half-stipend post (20 hours/week) was advertised as a part-time chaplain to older people.

Debbie Thrower was appointed in January 2010 and the role was carved out from scratch. Following secured funding from an alternative source, the work evolved into Anna Chaplaincy - Debbie Thrower was the UK's first Anna Chaplain and she has developed the blueprint.

Since 2014, the Anna Chaplaincy approach has been at the heart of BRF's The Gift of Years initiative to resource the spiritual journey of older people. It is being offered more widely as a proven way for other churches to cherish the gifts of older people in their membership, and to develop their service among this age group, and their mission to those marginalised and spiritually impoverished in later life.


Anna Chaplaincy is now a tried-and-tested model with the potential to spread far and wide as it begins to be replicated elsewhere, and as churches and individuals, whether they live in a city, town or rural context, are increasingly asking whether Anna Chaplaincy might work in their context.

The Gift of Years network continues to grow:

  • a second Anna Chaplain for Alton was recruited in 2014, the Revd Helen Jesty, who is an ordained deacon (pictured right)
  • a third Anna Chaplain for Alton was also appointed in 2014, Jonathan Rooke, a licensed lay minister
  • Richard Golding, a local preacher, was appointed an Anna Chaplain to Older People in Lytham St Anne's
  • Southampton now has its own City Chaplain for Older People, the Revd Dr Erica Roberts

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