'You're never too old, there's more to come'
She may be on the cusp of her 80th birthday but there’s no stopping Wendy Gleadle, who has just become the first Anna Chaplain in Gloucestershire
Named after the faithful widow Anna, who appears with Simeon in Luke’s gospel, Anna Chaplaincy is a community-based network that supports older people and their carers. The growing network, which began in 2014, is now 87 strong after Wendy was commissioned in a service at her church - Chipping Campden Baptist Church - on 29 September.
In addition Wendy has just entered her fourth year of study with the Light Project, the evangelism movement founded by former Baptist Union President Chris Duffett. Wendy is working towards a BA in theology and evangelism.
As an Anna Chaplain, Wendy plans to spend half a day each week at the nearby care home, giving pastoral and spiritual care to the residents through one-to-one chats, occasional Vintage Messy Church sessions, and possibly holding short services with Bible readings and hymns. She is also planning to start a support group for carers (several members of the church are caring for partners with dementia). The first meeting is on 7 November where she hopes to discern needs.
Wendy has also been talking to the children’s leader about the possibility of an Adopt a Grandparent scheme’.
‘It’s so exciting becoming an Anna Chaplain,’ she said. ‘At this age you never know what’s about to come, but as long as I’m fit and well I’m going to love doing it, and I hope it will grow. God has opened many doors.'
Wendy has a strong sense of God’s call on her life. She joined the church four and a half years ago but a few months later husband Ron died. In the painful months after Ron’s death, Wendy took part in the church’s Alpha Course, which proved a healing time for her. She realised she wanted to be baptised, and at her baptism there was an overriding message: ‘There’s more to come. You’re never too old.’
She soon found out about the Light Project, where this message was repeated: on enquiring about the course, she was also told 'You’re never too old to be learning about God.' She undertook a couple of placements with the course, including in the care home, which whetted her appetite further for this kind of ministry. She subsequently discovered Anna Chaplaincy, which was a natural progression.
Being an Anna Chaplain will serve a dual purpose for Wendy: as a Light Project student, she is required to have a hands-on ministry in addition to the academic demands of the course. She will also operate out of her church, which is enthusiastically supporting her.
‘The church is a wonderful church with lots of outreach, but it hasn’t done anything like this before, and has the full support of the ministers and leadership team.'
She added, 'Both Phil (Deller, the senior minister at Chipping Campden, pictured right with Wendy during the commissioning service) and Chris Duffett have been a great support to me. I feel very blessed.’
Anna Chaplaincy is a ministry of BRF. There is an annual gathering which this autumn takes place at High Leigh, Hertfordshire (October 28-30) where about 60 members of the network will come together.
For more information on Anna Chaplaincy, visit: www.annachaplaincy.org.uk
The Light Project is an official partner of the University of Chester and delivers practical degree courses in pioneering Theology and Evangelism accredited, validated and awarded by the University.