Towards a dementia-friendly Cathedral

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On the 11 April, 24 Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends were commissioned by Bishop James at Watling Court in Gravesend. The group included Chris Bostock, who was commissioned to work with the Cathedral and is the first such cathedral-based appointment in the country. Rochester is also the first diocese in the Church of England to introduce Anna Chaplaincy. 

Anna Chaplaincy is a new role across all Christian churches, aimed at supporting older people.  It has been pioneered by The Bible Reading Fellowship’s The Gift of Years. ‘Anna Chaplain’ was chosen as a title because it echoes the work of Anna, who the Bible tells us recognised the baby Jesus as the fulfilment of God’s promises; the name Anna emphasises that this is a hope-filled ministry, in the tradition of older people having prophetic voices and life lessons to share. 

In Rochester, Anna Chaplains will work with elderly people and people with dementia in the community around the diocese. Chris will help the Dean and Chapter to work towards the cathedral being recognised as a Dementia Friendly venue.

Anna Chaplaincy was launched in Rochester Diocese in late 2016 through funding provided by The Henry Smith Charity. The team of volunteers is supported by a dementia specialist project officer. Many members of the team have personal experiences of dementia in their families or professional lives, several in ordained or licenced lay ministry roles. As well as the Cathedral, they cover 20 parishes in 13 deaneries.

The difference between Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends is that Chaplains are in leadership roles, supporting other volunteers and spending at least one day a week in the role. Anna Friends spend several hours a week working with people with dementia but have fewer responsibilities. Both roles are voluntary.

To find out about Anna Chaplaincy in your area, or becoming an Anna Friend or Anna Chaplain, please contact Julia Burton-Jones, Dementia Specialist Project Officer at

For more information about Bible Reading Fellowship’s The Gift of Years and Anna Chaplaincy visit the website