The Gift of Years
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
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: www.thegiftofyears.org.uk
Bible Reflections for Older People is available from local bookshops or directly from BRF at www.brfonline.org.uk. Tel 01865 319700. Each issue costs £4.99.
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