Resourcing the spiritual journey of older people

Meet the team

The Gift of Years has a small but growing team at its core.

The Staff Group

  • Debbie Thrower - Team Leader and Anna Chaplain to Older People in Alton, Hampshire

TGOY_DTAboutImage Debbie Thrower is a former journalist and broadcaster, and is now a Church of England licensed lay minister in Winchester Diocese and Anna Chaplain to Older People in Alton, Hampshire, where Anna Chaplaincy was first developed. She became Team Leader of The Gift of Years in 2014.

She is an honorary lay Canon and Chapter member of Winchester Cathedral. 

Debbie first trained as a newspaper journalist in London and Norfolk and then began working for BBC local radio stations in Leicester and at Radio Solent in Southampton. Her credits include newscaster for the BBC's One, Six and Nine O'clock News, presenter of 'Songs of Praise', the science series 'The Thrower Report', Channel Four's 'Collector's Lot' and Radio Four's 'You and Yours' and 'Sunday', and she had her own daily afternoon show on Radio Two.

Her media experience informs her approach to promoting the spiritual welfare of older people; using the narrative of people's lives to seek shape, meaning and purpose, and to foster hope and resilience.

  • Alex Burn - Coordinator

TGOY_ABAboutImage Alex has senior management experience of working in health and social care, across the voluntary and community sectors. She has an MSc in Public Health and was head of the older people's well-being team for Hampshire County Council from 2006 to 2014.

She is also a trustee (and former Chair) of Farnham ASSIST - a Christian charity providing social and practical activities, and support, for older people - and a member of the South-East England Forum on Ageing (SEEFA) Policy and Planning Group.

  • Annabel Simcoe - Programmes Administrator for BRF

Annabel Simcoe

Annabel is the administrator for The Gift of Years, Messy Church and Who Let The Dad’s Out?. She has a young son and has previously studied customer service.

Annabel lives and works in Abingdon and is the friendly voice behind calls and emails. To contact her, email:

The Advisory Group

This group is made up of people with extensive experience, and each has a particular interest in the issues around ageing.

  • The Right Revd Christopher Herbert - former Bishop of St Albans and Non-Executive Director of the Abbeyfield Society

TGOY_CHABoutImage Bishop Christopher was ordained in the Hereford Diocese and was a curate, teacher, diocesan RE Adviser and Director of Education. In 1981, he became Vicar of The Bourne, Farnham. He was Archdeacon of Dorking and in 1995 was made Bishop of St Albans, a post he held for 13 years. He served in the House of Lords for ten years and was a member of a Select Committee which investigated Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. He now lives in Surrey and serves as an honorary Bishop in the dioceses of Guildford, Salisbury and Winchester.

He has a particular concern for the well-being of older people in our society, believing that the spiritual needs and gifts of older people should be nourished and be enabled to flourish. He is a voluntary Non-Executive Director of the Abbeyfield Society which provides housing, support and care for people at different stages of later life.

  • The Revd Canon Dr Joanna Collicutt - Anglican priest, Karl Jasper's Lecturer in Pyschology of Religion and Spirituality at Ripon College Cuddesdon, Fellow in Psychology of Religion at Harris Manchester College in Oxford, and Oxford Diocesan Advisor for Spiritual Care for Older People (SCOP)

TGOY_JCAboutImage Joanna is a chartered psychologist, registered with the Health Professions Council, who worked as a consultant clinical neuropsychologist for many years, specialising in the rehabilitation and care of people with memory problems due to brain disorders. From 1998 to 2003, she was responsible for psychology services to all adults with complex disability across Oxfordshire. And she was senior lecturer and course director for a Masters programme in Psychology of Religion at Heythrop College, University of London, for five years. She has also published several books on the interface between psychology and the Christian faith.

  • The Revd Keith Underhill - Methodist minister currently based in Alton with more than 25 years' experience of circuit ministry, and Superintendent for the Hants-Surrey border Methodist circuit

TGOY_KUAboutImageXKeith is one of the co-founders of the Greater Alton Project - Anglicans and Methodists journeying together, and from January 2010 was Debbie Thrower's line manager when she became the first Anna Chaplain to Older People.

He is passionate about the Anna Chaplaincy approach and its implications for the wider church and society as a whole.

  • Sue Radford - Media and communications consultant

TGOY_SRAboutImageSue has spent 25 years in the media as a broadcaster, journalist and TV news anchor. She has also held senior management and leadership positions in the commercial and charity sectors. Sue has worked with a number of leading Christian organisations, including BRF.

 She is enthusiastic about showing society that older people matter and the invaluable contribution they make to society:

I was inspired by having an older father who worked until he was 80, a wonderful Christian mother who died in her 90s, a feisty aunt who worked with the homeless men of Birmingham into her mid-90s, and I remain inspired by a 92-year-old aunt who is still active in her life and in her Christian journey.

  • Dr Harriet Mowat - Runs Mowat Research and is a member of Faith in Older People (FiOP) in Edinburgh

TGOY_HMAboutImageHarriet has spent her whole working career researching ageing in one form or another. She trained as a sociologist and has a PhD in Social Administration on the subject of old age homes and staff culture, from Edinburgh University.

She is an honorary member of staff in University of Aberdeen's Department of Practical Theology.

  • Ann Persson - writer and retreat leader, former BRF Trustee

TGOY_APAboutImage Ann says: I have had the pleasure of leading quiet days over a number of years. My husband and I used our former home as a retreat house with an arts centre attached.

As I approach my 80s, I am keen to take every opportunity for ministry that is still presented to me and have found that these later years in life have indeed had gift in them .

  • Jay Green - BRF Trustee and a former nurse

TGOY_JGAboutImage Jay spent her early career in nursing and counselling. In 1982, she moved to Hong Kong with her family and during the eleven years there she set up and managed a bookshop at St John's Cathedral.

Since returning to London in 1993, she has been a retail consultant for several not-for-profit retail ventures. She also runs a charitable trust.

Anna Chaplains and the growing network

  • The Revd Rachel Sturt - Anna Chaplain in Alton, Hampshire. Rachel has been an ordained preist since 2011. Her background is in nursing, most recently working as a Practice Nurse in Farnham, Surrey. After her curacy at Wrecclesham, Farnham, she spent several months on a placement last year at St Albans' Church, Hindhead, Surrey and Manormead Nursing Home. During this time, she also worked as a volunteer chaplain at the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice in Farnham
  • Jonathan Rooke - Licensed lay minister and Anna Chaplain to Older People in Alton. Jon is also a lecturer at the University of Winchester training students for teaching careers.
  • Richard Golding - Former teacher and now a Local Preacher and Community Chaplain to Older People within the South Fylde Circuit of the Methodist Church in Lancashire. He is also MHA (Methodist Homes) Chaplain at MHA Starr Hills Care Home, Lytham St Anne’s. 
  • The Revd Dr Erica Roberts - Former paediatric oncologist and now a self-supporting minister (SSM), based at Highfield Church in Southampton, and the City Chaplain for Older People
  • Catriona Foster - Pastor for Older People, St John's Church, Harborne, Birmingham, who began her career as a speech therapist before working for an Anglican church and then for Crusaders (now Urban  Saints). Catriona says her role includes 'the pastoral care of older people both in our congregation as well as in our local community. This involves caring for the whole person - their spiritual, practical, social and emotional needs.'
  • The Revd Sally Rees - Deacon based at St Edmund's Church, Crickhowell, Powys, Wales, where she works with a team of pastoral visitors and across her Deanery 'forging links with others (both Anglican and other denominations) to help establish, support and grow ministry to older people in the community.' She has a postgraduate qualification in Chaplaincy studies (MTh) from St Michaels College, Cardiff.
  • The Revd Alison Dobell - Chaplain, The St John's Charity, Winchester, which is one of the oldest charitable institutions in the country, founded as long ago as 931. This Christian charity provides sheltered almshouse accommodation, day care, and residential and nursing care for needy older people - it is the largest independent provider of care for older people in Winchester with 81 almshouse units, a day centre and two nursing homes.
  • Mark Pateman - Director of Older People Support, responsible for older people's ministry at Busbridge and Hambledon Church, Surrey
  • Sheila Melot - Lay minister in the Parish of Bishopston & St Andrews, Bristol, who has responsibility for work with older people in the parish. She says: 'I look forward to how this might develop in the coming years. It would seem very valuable to be able to share experiences of things that work and don't work so well, and learn from each other, in quite an informal relaxed way.'
  • The Revd Dave Fenton - Associate Minister, Care in the Third Age, Christ Church, Winchester.
  • Jill Phipps - Older Person's Advocate for the inner city cluster churches in Portsmouth Diocese.
  • Sally Nevitt - Older Persons' Director at Immanuel United Reformed Church, Southbourne Bournemouth.
  • Christine McAteer - works for St. Gabriel's Centre, Weoley Castle, Birmingham, as 'Older People's Development Worker and Animateur'. “This means I build links with isolated older people within the community and organisations that work with older people. My work includes running a Befriending Scheme and supporting activities run for and by older people,” she says. She is also a lay bus chaplain with National Express Buses West Midlands, on a voluntary basis.
  • Kathryn Lees - Project Coordinator, Friends for Life, Bedford. Friends for Life started in 2007 as an ecumenical project between the Anglican Bedford Deanery and the North Bedfordshire Methodist Circuit and became a registered charity in 2015. Friends for Life work to address the social isolation of those in Bedfordshire’s care homes and to support the local churches' ministry to those in residential care. ‘It is our experience that many care home workers feel ill equipped to answer the often difficult questions residents face during the winter of their lives. Friends for Life look to equip both care home workers and the local churches with the awareness, knowledge and sensitivity needed to talk with the residents about such matters,’ says Kathryn.
  • Esther Clift - Esther is assisting Southampton’s City Chaplain for Older People part-time. She is a senior physiotherapist, training to be a Consultant Practitioner in Frailty, funded by Health Education Wessex. Conducting research for her MSc (Gerontology) she spent time with older people in the informal settlements of Nairobi, Kenya, seeing how “older people with deep spiritual connections demonstrated better resilience and health outcomes.” Esther says, “I’m delighted to have this opportunity to work alongside the Anna Chaplains to embed integrated care in our communities.”
  • Emmeline Barnston - Ecumenical Chaplain (Care Homes) in Cramlington, Northumberland, with colleague Graham Wilkins.  Emmeline says, “I have always described us and our work as ‘Catholic by denomination: Ecumenical by profession’ and so we are!” Her personal ministry is in offering both spiritual and pastoral care to those living with dementia. Emmeline also contributes to the North East Religious Resources Centre
  • Graham Wilkins - Ecumenical chaplain (Care Homes) in Cramlington, Northumberland, also working in the care homes locally, four of which specialise in the care of people living with dementia. Graham is based at St Paul’s Roman Catholic Church. He is also Chaplain to Jane Percy House, catering for people of all ages who have had a stroke or are suffering from other disabilities.
  • The Revd Steve Dent - is a deacon at St Faith’s Church, Lee on the Solent, Hampshire, and has particular responsibility for working with older people in the community and his local care homes in the Portsmouth Diocese.
  • Tony and Roz Hanson – Head up The Lantern Shine Network at the Lantern Church, Merley, Canford Magna Parish, in Wimborne, Dorset. For the past eight years they have worked for care home charity Brendoncare, setting up and running Friendship Clubs for older people throughout east Dorset. With the help of nearly a hundred volunteers they have established twenty weekly clubs providing a place for older people to come along and enjoy a stimulating time together. Tony and Roz lived in Argentina working as Mission Partners with SAMS (South American Mission Society) for eight years.  Their Dorset church’s vision is to “Love God, Love Each Other & Serve our Community and Beyond.” As part of this vision the couple have been released to take a lead in reaching into the “Third Age” generation. With a small action group they are developing ways of supporting, valuing and empowering those who are in the “second half of life” and also exploring how they can reach out and share their faith with older people in the community more effectively. 
  • Judy Watson – A licensed Reader, lay minister, in the Diocese of Lincoln working in the South of the Diocese in the Beltisloe Deanery. For many years she was a Registered Nurse specialising in the Care of the Elderly. As part of her Reader training she studied for Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in theological reflection. Judy says: ‘As a Reader my ministry has been has been concentrated on the spiritual needs of those parishioners in care homes and those isolated at home.’
  • Lindsay Pelloquin - Lead Chaplain for the Gift of Years: Rugby, which is an ecumenical project commissioned by ‘Revive’– the Churches Together group in Rugby. It is jointly led by a Methodist & Catholic partnership. Lindsay is developing and training a team of Christians from across the denominations to be volunteer chaplains and volunteers in residential care homes for older people in Rugby. Lindsay originally trained to be an Occupational Therapist and worked in the NHS. Later on she became a Lay Visitor at her local hospital, visiting on the elderly wards. This led to her sensing a vocation to become a Lay Chaplain and she studied at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham for a Foundation Degree in Healthcare Chaplaincy. She has worked as a hospital chaplain, a hospice chaplain and as a chaplain in a residential care home in Leicester. Lindsay began to set up The Gift of Years: Rugby project at the beginning of 2016, and has been employed by the project from November 2016. Lindsay says she is ‘passionate about the benefits of chaplaincy for older people and those at the end of life, and enabling Christians from all denominations to work together and to share the treasures that they bring from their faith traditions to enrich the lives of all those in care home communities.’
  • Deborah Hennessy and David Cooke - Joint Interim Coordinator and Chaplain, sharing the start-up work for Anna Chaplaincy in Chichester, West Sussex. Deborah, who holds a PhD in Public Health, and is a spiritual director, started her professional life as a nurse, and has worked not only in the UK but in Europe, the Far East and Africa. David, whose background is in law, counselling, mediation and restorative justice, recently returned from Kenya after a four-year stint with Church Mission Society. He was a member of Solicitors for the Elderly, a specialist group of lawyers, and also chairman of the Portsmouth and S.E Hants branch of the Alzheimer’s Society. Chichester’s Steering Group, and other participants, come from across many denominations in the city, including Baptists, Methodists, Catholics and Anglicans.
  • June Huntsman - an Anglican Authorised Lay Minister, ALM, at St. John the Evangelist Church, Cambridge. A retired teacher, June trained as a spiritual director, and became pastoral assistant to the vicar of St John’s some eight years ago, beginning a group called ‘Companions’ where older people could gather for company and contact. ‘This has been a success and has proved to be popular for many and a vehicle for outreach in the community; I am responsible for organising the group in church which visits the elderly and sick; I take Home Communions to those unable to get to church, and led a service at the local Care Home - sadly now closed. I am passionate about the welfare, well-being and spiritual needs of the older parishioners and am keen to give them a ‘voice’ whenever possible. I do believe this is where I am meant to be!’
  • Faith Kenny - Chaplaincy Assistant. Assisting the City Chaplain for Older People in Southampton Erica Roberts. Faith, who has a degree in medicine, is taking a break from studies and is committing twelve hours a week to chaplaincy among older people: 'This is an exciting year for me, spending time away from university to explore something I am passionate about—working with older people and finding out about the joys and challenges that ageing brings to different parts of life, and how one's faith transforms and progresses over time. I am thoroughly enjoying the work I have started doing alongside Erica in Southampton, and very much look forward to building relationships with and learning from the older people I meet.'
  • Margaret Hollands - Lead Anna Chaplain for Medway, which covers Strood, Rochester and Gillingham deaneries. Margaret recently retired as deputy head in primary education, and has been a licensed lay minister (LLM) for many years.
  • John Tootell - Lead Anna Chaplain for the deaneries of Dartford, Gravesend and Cobham. After working in the Royal Navy and then as an electrician, he was drawn to pastoral roles supporting people with dementia. John is working with a local dementia charity towards the launch of an innovative dementia hub for the area called Safeharbour, as well as setting up a dementia café at St Edmund’s.
  • Judith West - Lead Anna Chaplain for the London Borough of Bromley, which includes the deaneries of Bromley, Orpington and Beckenham. Judith has extensive experience managing services for older people, including dementia specialist domiciliary services. With colleagues at Christ Church she set up the Chislehurst Dementia Café. She is a dementia trainer and has delivered Dementia Friends sessions in local churches, as well as organising and delivering dementia education for family carers.
  • Revd Anne Bourne - Associate vicar at St Luke’s Church in Sevenoaks. Anne is the lead Anna Chaplain for the deaneries of Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge. She had an earlier career as a secondary school teacher. Drawing from her experience of supporting the care home community, she completed a Masters in ordained ministry looking at the effectiveness of the ministry of presence in residential care.
  • David Palmer - Pioneer Minister for the Diocese of Leicester, currently seconded to the Market Harborough Anglican Team. ‘As a Pioneer I am principally involved in "reimagining church", most notably among those in our community who are lonely or isolated; older people invariably, but also, importantly, people who feel disconnected from the community and church’ he says. Formerly, David worked with Torch Trust for eleven years as their UK Group Development Leader, supporting the network of groups for people with sight loss.
  • Julie Slade - Seniors' Chaplain at St Mary Magdalen Church, Sheet, Hampshire. Julie is a former nurse and her 20-hours-a-week paid role is building on the church’s good links with three local care homes and a day centre.
  • Beverley McArdle - Rest Homes Team Leader with Brighton and Hove City Mission. Beverley visits rest homes across the Brighton and Hove area with a team of volunteers providing short informal services, and some one-to-one visiting with residents. She also aims to support churches with their work among older people in the city.  Beverley has been involved in book selling, teaching and has worked with older people in sheltered housing. Since starting at the Mission she says she has enjoyed visiting rest homes and care homes in the area and has found sharing the Good News and worshipping with the residents a privilege and a joy.
  • Lindsay MacRae - Project coordinator for St Luke's Older People's Project in Kentish Town, North London. The project aims to tackle depression and social isolation among people over 75 through lunches, creative sessions, tea parties, outings and discos! Lindsay says, ‘Many events are intergenerational so that we can build a more understanding and loving community.’ She is a former journalist and the author of several collections of poetry. She has held ‘hundreds of writing workshops in schools, libraries, refugee centres and prisons.’
  • Angela Scott - is a Licensed Lay Minister, LLM, at Christ Church Chislehurst. She has a Master’s degree in ministry with older people and helps run Chislehurst Dementia Café. She visits and takes services at several homes, while also administering Home Communion to parishioners. Angela is a member of Diocesan Synod, and of the Church of England’s General Synod.
  • Christine Bostock - In a first for Anna Chaplaincy, Christine Bostock, is based at Rochester Cathedral as an Anna Chaplain, where she is also a guide and chair of the Cathedral’s Friends helping it to offer a dementia-friendly welcome. Christine is a Reader in Coxheath benefice, and she is also a Dementia Ministry Advisor in Rochester, and Canterbury, and a Dementia Friends Champion. 
  • Diana Pattison - is based at Holy Trinity Bromley Common as a Licensed Lay Minister, LLM. In the past, she ran Petts Wood Christian bookshop. She regularly visits two new care homes in the parish, running craft activities and services. She trains other pastoral visitors across the three Bromley Common parishes, several of whom are hoping to extend dementia awareness.
  • Julia Crathorn - is ministering in Twydall, in the Gillingham deanery. She is a Methodist Homes, MHA, Chaplain and a Church Army sister working in Holy Trinity with older people, She, too, is a Dementia Friends Champion.
  • Kate Edwards – Lay Worship Leader and a Lay Pastoral Assistant in the Diocese of Salisbury spearheading Older Person’s Ministry at All Saints Church, Poole, in Dorset. She previously worked as a producer in the Religious Affairs department at BBC Radio, has taught Religious Studies and has a Masters in Christian Spirituality. Her mission and that of her team is to prioritise and nourish ‘spiritual growth’ for older people in the community ‘that they may know the love of God whatever their circumstances'.
  • Julie Pejnovic – Development Worker for Older People at Petersfield United Reformed Church, East Hampshire, a 25-hour-a-week post. Julie offers pastoral care, supports older people to remain connected with their church and develops new church activities specifically for older people. She is a former nurse who then worked in the voluntary sector for many years, for Alzheimer’s Society and Citizens Advice. She says: ‘That experience has proved a real help in this new position at the church, which I find challenging, but always extremely enjoyable and rewarding.’
  • Sara Davies – Anna Chaplaincy Development Worker in Lincolnshire. Sara, who is a Reader (Licensed Lay Minister, LLM) explained how, supported by the Warden of Readers and the Mission Team, ‘it is now going to be my role to try to establish the kind of ministry that is currently undertaken with older people around the diocese, with special attention given to the spiritual care that is given to isolated, elderly people.’
  • Barbara McIntosh – From Luton, Bedfordshire, Barbara is a Church of England Reader (or Licensed Lay Minister, LLM) based at St Francis Parish Church. She spent 17 years as a chaplain at London Luton Airport, but is now back in the parish and concerned with promoting the spiritual well-being and gifts of older people. She has started a HOPE group (Helping Older People Engage with life in all its fullness and Jesus the Lord of Life) for people in the second half of life.
  • Elaine GilbertAnna Chaplaincy Coordinator in Fleet and Church Crookham, Hampshire. Elaine has been involved in education all her working life in a variety of classroom and management roles. She currently works part-time for the University of Winchester as a Link Tutor, ‘where I have the privilege of overseeing students in their school placements. I am passionate about ensuring older people are listened to and enabled to thoroughly enjoy their later years.’ Elaine feels the skills she has developed in education are readily transferable to the role of Anna Chaplain Coordinator.
  • John Phillips a Lay Worship Leader with special interest in Older Persons’ Ministry. He lives in the village of Elton near Chesterand is a member of the congregation at Thornton-Le-Moors with Ince and Elton Ecumenical Partnership. As well as distributing Holy Communion by extension around the parish to the sick and housebound, John is a Dementia Friend, and for the past two years he has been ‘chaplain to our local nursing home, where I lead a weekly inclusive Communion service for the residents, staff and visitors.'
  • Sophie Sutherland – Following her ordination in 2012, Sophie says she developed a special interest in the spiritual care of older people while working closely with care homes in the parish of Chevening, near Sevenoaks. More recently, she has been working as a chaplain within the King’s College Hospital Trust. Originally a linguist, most of Sophie’s previous working life was spent in museums and galleries, particularly the Victoria and Albert Museum.