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Dear Friends,  

It's cold, it's dark, you may be on your own - well we invite you to come and join us, grab a cup of tea, snuggle up warm and have a little read of what's going on in the life of Befriended.  

It's that time of year when Strictly is getting more exciting, the Christmas adverts are competing against one another and everyone seems to be so busy, tired and stressed.  

Covid has definitely not gone away, we may not be in lockdown in the UK but all our lives are still affected by it in one way or another. Let me take you back to this time last year...we were all in lockdown. Everyone experienced what it was to be isolated and more people experienced what it was to be lonely. Families were separated, and Christmas was so different for all of us.  So what have we learned?   

We need one another, friendships, connection, companionship, and community but not just at Christmas time, we need it all the year through.

In this newsletter we will share with you all about the new and exciting events that have happened recently and share with you our hopes and dreams for 2022.

Thank you for being part of Befriended, we can only do what we do with you and for you so that ......

Together we can make a difference to the lives of others, 

one smile at a time.


Befriended Family 

Bishop Ruth Bushyager - Bishop of Horsham

Diane Watts (Befriended Trustee) recently interviewed Bishop Ruth on her appointment as Patron of Befriended and this is what Diane asked - 'Why did you say yes to Befriended?'   "As a Bishop I am asked to take on a lot of roles and I kept saying no, no, no but when I met Gail on Easter Sunday, I could not say no! I was attracted to an organisation that has a compelling vision to make a difference. I was also taken back to my childhood when I realised that when we were growing up, there was always an older person in our lives who my Mum had befriended and it reminded that this vision is so vital in our communities". 

Diane asked,  'How do you think the Pandemic has affected the Diocese in which you are now working?'  Bishop Ruth replied, "Lots of people migrate to Sussex to retire. It is a great place to live but that brings with it a host of challenges but, the need is endless, we need hundreds of volunteers to make life better for others."


Sarah Smith - Befriender

Gail interviewed Sarah recently about her friendship with her befriendee Joan.  Sarah and Joan have been friends now for three years.  Gail asked Sarah what the friendship has meant to both her and Joan.  

"I was nervous at first but we got on very well from that first visit. Joan is a massive part of my life now, we have a wonderful, mutually beneficial friendship. We speak every day and even though Joan does have family nearby, it was the regular contact that has made such a difference to Joans life who was sufferering from depression and grief when I first met her.  My life is enriched and I am so thankful and privileged to have such a wonderful relationship with Joan."

Gail asked whether the relationship suffered during lockdown, Sarah replied

"Our relationship grew,  I did not want Joan to feel lonely or isolated so I went round regularly and we chatted through the window. We began texting, emailing or Skyping which we still do everyday."


We are so delighted to share the exciting news of Katie's (Befriended's Office Manager) engagement to Phil.  

Phil is also Stuart and Gail's son so there are double celebrations.  We wish them both all the happiness, health and blessings for their future together. 

New Volunteers

Befriended would be nothing without its volunteers.  Gail has recently met up with a couple of our volunteers to chat with them about volunteering with Befriended:

Emma Taylor - Volunteer Befriender specialising in Dementia

Emma is a wonderful, talented, kind, compassionate lady.  She has recently retired from her career of being an ANE Nurse but continues to do bank nursing a couple of days a week caring for people living with dementia. Emma came along to one of the tea parties and said she would love to be a part of Befriended. Emma has volunteered to help at the future tea parties but has also completed her volunteer registration so she can visit someone in their home.  

Shirley Watts - Tea Party Extraordinaire

Shirley and her husband Neil are experts in befriending people. Shirley ran a Sunday afternoon event for older people for years and years so brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Shirley and her husband Neil have joined the Befriended Tea Party team.  They help with setting up, laying tables, clearing tables, washing up, as well as sitting and chatting with the guests.

Clare Hobbis -  Chaplain

Clare is married to Steve who is the Pastor at Gateway Baptist Church. Clare is a brilliant administrator and supports a couple of local charities in doing their accounts and some admin. Clare and Steve moved from Watford where Clare was a Town Chaplain.  We are absolutely delighted to have Clare as part of the Befriended family both in her role in Befriended Chaplaincy team but also as a volunteer at our events held at Gateway.

These are just a few examples of how different types of volunteering has a huge impact to the work of Befriended. 

If you have skills that you think Befriended could benefit from and would like to volunteer even just for an hour a week, it could make all the difference to the impact Befriended has on our community. Check out our website for more information.


Volunteer Training Evenings - 6th or 9th December on Zoom.  Details will be sent to all volunteers who have not yet completed their training.


What's New?

Monthly Tea Parties

On the first Sunday of each month at 3pm we meet at Gateway Baptist Church for an afternoon of friendship, fun and lots of great food!

We have some regular activities on the programme such as a quiz, an interview, a Birthday basket, and of course a scrumptious Afternoon Tea.  Each month there is some different entertainment for all to enjoy.  

We have had wonderful feedback from those that have attended the Afternoon Teas, below are just a few comments people have made:

"It is a great afternoon, I have met and made some new friends who I look forward to seeing next month" - Sue

"I was really nervous at coming on my own but everyone is so friendly.  I had a wonderful afternoon" - Shirley

"I really look forward to my Sunday afternoons with Befriended.  The food is fabulous and the people are so kind." - Michael

If you would like join us on Sunday afternoons, just come along to Gateway Baptist Church on Station Road at 3pm on the first Sunday of each month, we would love to see you there. If you're coming to a Tea Party, for the safety and respect of others, please do a lateral flow test before attending. 

Anna Chaplains

On the 10th November, Befriended commissioned four Anna Chaplains at our wonderful event which we will tell you all about later in the newsletter.

Theodora, Clare, Will and Gail were licensed as chaplains and the service was led by Bishop Ruth Bushyager.  This is a very exciting and significant time in the journey of Befriended. The Befriended Chaplaincy team will be visiting care homes, taking services, offering communion and prayer for individuals.  

Here are the biographies of our four Chaplains:

Theodora Verner

I am married with four children. My eldest daughter Susie was diagnosed at twelve as having an incurable neurological disease. I went in search of God and met Jesus in the early 1980s. It was then that my life really began, and my husband and my mother then became Christians as did my children.

My son had cancer when he was 18 but praise God was healed, however, Susie my daughter had stopped talking at the age of 14 and became bedridden and at age 29 she died in my arms. We took a sabbatical year and went to Bible College in Yorkshire before coming back down south where I then returned to my nursing career and ran several care homes and set up dementia units. I was accepted as a magistrate sitting on the bench in Brighton and am still a supplementary Justice of the Peace.

When I retired I completed a chaplaincy course and became part of the chaplaincy team for Princess Royal and Kleinwort Hospitals in Haywards Heath which led to me becoming the leader of the team.

I have known Gail and supported her in her ministry at Torch for many years, and more recently have become closely involved in her work in Befriended. When she shared about the chaplaincy work they are beginning with Anna Chaplaincy, it was definitely something I felt the Holy Spirit’s prompting to get involved with. I am very excited at being part of the Anna Chaplaincy team with Befriended and so pleased to be commissioned with them.

Clare Hobbis 

I relocated to Burgess Hill at the beginning of 2021 with my husband Steve, for him to become pastor of Gateway Baptist Church and I had been wondering about how best to use my time in Christian service. 

I heard about Anna Chaplaincy in the summer when I met Gail who works for Befriended, a charity working with the lonely and elderly. Gail mentioned that she wanted to start a new aspect of the work and form a team of Anna Chaplains. I have been involved in town centre chaplaincy in Watford and was inspired by what Gail had planned and felt excited about becoming involved in chaplaincy work again.

I have a heart for the elderly, and I have also been involved in running services in care homes with our previous church and coming alongside residents. I really feel called to this work as there is such a need to show, love, care and compassion to those who are lonely and vulnerable, and who need to know the love of Jesus. I want to make a difference in their lives just by being available and being a friendly face to hear their stories and life experiences and to show the love of Jesus to this very special generation from whom we can learn so much.

Revd Will Fletcher 

I have been a Methodist minister for just over seven years, and during that time I have developed a passion for ministering amongst older people. Most of my congregations have been predominantly older and I’ve loved the opportunities I have had to share with them on their journeys. 

In both my previous appointment (in Sheffield), and my current one, I have had opportunities of going into care homes and sheltered accommodation to minister amongst older people in pastoral visits and in leading acts of worship. They have so often been the times when I have felt most uplifted and assured of my calling to ordained ministry. Whilst in Sheffield I had the chance to take part in a short course at Cliff College called ‘Ministry Amongst Older People’. This had quite a lot of input from the Anna Chaplaincy team. It was the first time I had come across Anna Chaplaincy and, whilst being really interested, I wasn’t in a position to be involved. As we pray that we are coming through the pandemic, opportunities are beginning to open once more to minister amongst older people in various settings. Just as I had begun praying what this might look like I received contact from Gail about Befriended, and teaming up with them and Anna Chaplaincy just felt right. My wife, Helen, is also passionate about ministry amongst older people and teaches different sessions of dance and movement for older people. Whilst we are not often in the same sessions together, it is so good to know that we share in this same ministry.

Gail Millar

Having worked in Christian ministry for over 25 years, predominately with older people, I am excited and invigorated by the way that God weaves his will and plans through our lives.

My husband and I were invited to the launch of Anna Chaplaincy – at St Saviour’s Church, Knightsbridge, several years ago which was when I first met Debbie Thrower. 

That evening I was captivated by the vision of Anna Chaplaincy and soon made contact with Debbie who invited me to shadow her in her work for a few days in Alton. Sadly I was not in a position at that time to take up the role of an Anna Chaplain . In 2016 our paths crossed again when I was in a new role with the Salvation Army and we met at various events/conferences, but again I was still not in a position to take up the role of an Anna Chaplain. 

In 2021, I was made redundant from the Salvation Army and one of the first conversations I had was with Debbie. I knew that now was the right time to fulfil that calling/commitment that had begun well over ten years ago to become an Anna Chaplain for Older People. This coincided with my new role as CEO of Befriended.  All the services offered to our older people through Befriended addressed emotional, physical and mental wellbeing, so recognising and providing spiritual care was also essential. 

The perfect synergy was to bring Anna Chaplains to form a Chaplaincy team working with other church leaders as part of Befriended's work and ministry.  I am thrilled to be part of a team of Anna Chaplains and together we pray that God will use us to bless the lives of many older people living in Mid Sussex.

If you would like one of our chaplains or the team to come to you please do get in touch with us and we will be delighted to visit you.

An Evening with Befriended

A wonderful event took place celebrating all aspects of Befriended with, of course, an abundance of food and drink. We welcomed our New Patron, heard a presentation from Gail all about why Befriended is needed and how it is addressing the need of loneliness and isolation amongst older people in Mid Sussex.  We were absolutely thrilled to have Debbie Thrower (the first Anna Chaplain) from BRF join us and she spoke so eloquently.  The Bishop then led a commissioning service including beautiful worship led by Stuart Barbour and his amazing band. The evening was enjoyed by many people who had traveled far and wide. We are so grateful for the support and encouragement shown towards Befriended.

Bereavement Course

As mentioned in our last newsletter we have sadly lost more of our much loved clients over the past few months.  We do remember them and their families as they live with their loss.

In February next year we will be running The Bereavement Course online.  The dates we are planning are Monday 7th February 7.30 pm for 5 weeks.  We may run a face to face course also but that depends on the Covid Situation nearer the time.  

If you or someone you know would benefit from talking about their loss please do get in touch with us and we will gladly have a chat with them.  The course is free and lasts for about 2 hours via Zoom.


Hopes and Dreams for 2022

Monthly Tea Parties to be taking place in different venues across Mid Sussex

Drop in Befriended Cafes in different venues 

Befriended Balance Classes - Falls prevention excercise classes

100 new volunteers

100 New matches of befriending either by phone or face to face

More partnering with churches and organisations

Regular services taking place in care homes

Chaplaincy Team visiting people at end of life and supporting families

Bereavement support and 3 courses throughout the year.

These are some of our hopes and dreams which we give to God for his leading guiding and provision 


Befriended Tea Towels - £6.00 each

At our first Tea Party we asked our guests to draw pictures of themselves and or of those on their table.  With everyone's permission we then used the pictures to design our very own Befriended Tea Towel.  They are great and are a reminder for us to support Befriended in anyway we can.

If you would like to purchase one or more of these lovely tea towels to use as gifts for Christmas please just get in touch with us and we will arrange payment and delivery. 


Dates for your Diary

Monthly Tea Parties

5th December 2021

2nd January 2022

6th February 2022

6th March 2022

3rd April 2022

1 May 2022

5 June 2022

Volunteer Training Evenings

Monday 6th December 2021

Thursday 9th December 2021

Volunteer Catch Up Chat

Tuesday 25th January

The Bereavement Course

Monday 7th February

Monday 14th February

Monday 21st February

Monday 28th February

Monday 7th March


A Wee Note from Gail

It's nearly that time of year again! My husbands birthday!  I expect you thought I was going to say Christmas! Well in our house Christmas is not even mentioned until after his birthday which is 4 weeks exactly to Christmas day.  For my husband's birthday this year we have arranged a surprise for him.  We all love surprises don't we? Sadly it is two years since we have seen our two daughters, their husbands and our four grandchildren who live in Scotland. BUT we have arranged a surprise, we are all planning to be together in the Lake District for a few days to celebrate my husbands birthday with him. 

At our Evening with Befriended I too was massively surprised! I was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for my 25 years service to charity from Mid Sussex Applauds. Stuart and I were also awarded a joint Lifetime Achievement Award for our Services to local charity work. We are so humbled to be recognised and so thankful to all those who play a part in supporting, encouraging and helping us do what we do.  Thank you! 


Volunteers, Thank you so much for all you do! 

Clients, You are amazing! Keep going, we are here to help you 

Partners, We really value your partnership, how can we work together?

Friends of Befriended, Thank you for being our friends!  We really appreciate your financial support, prayer support and your ongoing encouragement, we couldn't do it without you!


"I will come to you with joy and we will encourage one another." 

Romans 15:32



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