‘We are aware a lot of work has been invested in ministry with young people but we are only slowly catching up with ministry with older people. Isolation is a key predisposing factor in abuse of older people. Anything which is positively tackling isolation will help reduce – and possibly identify – abuse.’
Jane Fisher, District Safeguarding Officer, Southampton Methodist Church District
Methodists with safeguarding responsibilities gathered in Hampshire recently to look at what factors allow abuse to flourish, and ways of spotting the signs and combating abuse when it happens.
There were sessions at Chandlers Ford Methodist Church on spiritual abuse. I spoke about the origins and development of Anna Chaplaincy, from its beginnings in the Hampshire market town of Alton to the 80-plus national network of Anna Chaplains and others in equivalent roles currently ministering to older people and supporting carers.
Network member, Jill Phipps, described her own years as Older Persons' Advocate in inner-city Portsmouth. Jill has joined the Anna Chaplaincy team helping to promote Messy Vintage – an inclusive way of worshipping among older generations that has grown out of BRF's Messy Church movement. See messychurch.org.uk/messyvintage
The day ended with Messy Vintage worship, which included a typical craft activity – this one using lolly sticks and wool to make a 'God's Eye' – which was enjoyed by all ages participating.
A challenge issued
Jane Fisher spoke of opening hearts and minds to the realities of growing older today, and issued a challenge to every Methodist Circuit in the district to start planning to have at least one Anna Chaplain in its midst – yet more eyes and ears going in and out of care homes, sheltered accommodation and private homes – and spotting those individuals who are struggling or at risk.
Anna Chaplains are there for people of strong, little or no faith and are a gracious offering from the church to their local community.