The Gift of Years

Published on: 1 January 2017

As more churches seek to respond to the challenges of a rapidly ageing population, The Bible Reading Fellowship’s The Gift of Years ministry signposts ways in which our later years can be more spiritually fertile, and infinitely more fulfilling.

Through a range of resources, the recently launched initiative The Gift of Years seeks to bring inspiration and meaning to our later years. Focusing on what there is to be thankful for gives a context for fears and regrets to be addressed.

Life is a gift, and our later years do not diminish that. Acknowledging this gift can help us to embrace whatever comes our way. Growing older involves change but this doesn’t have to be fraught with anxiety. David Winter, a former producer and Head of Religious Broadcasting at the BBC, says, ‘To live is, in fact, to cope with change, from childhood to old age.

It doesn’t make it easier, but at least it’s a shared experience.’ To regard ageing as a voyage of discovery, we need to be equipped, and a range of relevant resources have been developed to support this.

The Gift of Years adopts the practical approach of Anna Chaplaincy: a triedand-tested, community-based ministry among older people. Anna Chaplains draw alongside people to cherish their gifts, encourage their faith or to minister to anyone feeling marginalised or spiritually impoverished. Launched first in Hampshire, the Anna Chaplaincy scheme is being made more widely accessible, and this approach is at the heart of BRF’s The Gift of Years ministry.

First and foremost, an Anna Chaplain is someone who will listen. An Anna Chaplain is sent out by their congregation to work with people of strong, little or no faith at all. Their task is to promote the spiritual welfare of men and women through pastoral visiting, taking care home services and offering a listening ear. What is distinctive about Anna Chaplaincy is that it is ecumenical, community based and it takes a narrative approach to helping people navigate the choppy waters of older age.

Anna Chaplains are sent out with the authority, credibility and affirmation of the churches in whose name they visit. The community nature of this form of chaplaincy is what makes it so key to expanding ministry among older people. Debbie Thrower, the UK’s first Anna Chaplain, says: ‘It’s like planting a flag in the middle of town and saying “older
people matter’.”

As well as this practical initiative, publisher BRF has recently launched Bible Reflections for Older People. Each issue is written by older people for older people, to bring hope and assurance, reminding the reader of the presence and love of God. 40 Bible reflections and prayer suggestions speak wisdom into this stage of life.

To find out more about Anna Chaplains and The Gift of Years visit:

Bible Reflections for Older People is available from local bookshops or directly from BRF at Tel 01865 319700. Each issue costs £4.99.

This article is from...

Articles in this issue...

Spiritual gifts in later life

"I believe that spirituality is very much part of my religion, my faith, my meaning, my understanding, and spirituality lifts me and aids me in my everyday work."


Monday Mardle at Saxlingham Nethergate

Corinne Douglas and Celia Blyth are archetypal "third agers": in their early 70's, active, committed members of their parish church. Twelve years ago they saw a need in their community and decided to do something about it.


Volunteering is good for everyone!

Giving just a little of your time can make a big difference, not only to those you’re helping but to yourself too. A May 2012 study by the Royal Voluntary Service (formerly the WRVS) found that volunteering in later life decreased depression and social isolation. It was also found to boost quality of life and life satisfaction. For us as Christians, it’s also encouraged in the Bible: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)


God’s grace perseveres through our ages and stages

When I was asked to contribute this comment, it was a shock to realise that I had been numbered as one of the Elect of the Third Age - but of course, that’s what I am, with a fair number of All Hallows’ Community.


700 and still counting

What a beautiful place! … this is a ‘must see’ when in Norwich. Very welcoming, from the moment we stepped through the door … were greeted by a guide with information and a very welcome leaflet (I love a leaflet!). Trip Advisor October 2016


From beginning to end with Open the Book

The bible is full of stories of people who entered into ministry later in life. With more people now aged over 60 than under 18 in the UK, what role do older people have to play in relating to the younger generation? Irene Nickerson talks about her role as Open the Book Coordinator for Norfolk.


Building an intergenerational culture in your church

For many it seems society is becoming ever more divided and more insular and we are losing the ability to communicate – especially across intergenerational boundaries. Toddlers, Teenagers, Generation X, 3rd Generation – all these terms divide up our communities, putting them in boxes that mean we plan activities by age – young people in schools, older people in retirement homes.


Face to Faith – Val Dodsworth

Val has been involved in the rehabilitation of offenders for most of her life. After 20 years in the Probation Service and five in the chaplaincy in Norwich Prison, in December 2000 she started the House of Genesis (A place for a new start) by welcoming homeless men into her own home.


From generation to generation – learning life lessons

Biddy Collyer had been living alone in a two bedroomed house in Norwich city centre for 15 years and during that time had a number of lodgers, all male. Last year she knew that a young friend from church, Suze Rose, wanted to move from Dereham where she had been working and living with her parents since leaving University. Biddy invited her to move in while she completed her training as a Beauty Therapist. Twelve months on, the reflect on an experience of house-sharing across generations.


Talkin’ ’bout my generation

Contrary to what many rock starts expected, they did not die before they got old, and our churches nowadays contain many from the rock generation. Some of them are in leadership positions. Time Lenton explores the concept of the "boomer" Christians.


Keep up to date

Subscribe to our eNews for a snapshot of news, events and resources, usually emailed once a fortnight

Signup to newsletter