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Go into ALL the world

Brisbane Boys College senior students meet with Chaplain Rev Graham Cole. Photo by Osker Lau

There seems to be no limit to the places where Chaplains serve. Journey asked some of the 100 Queensland Uniting Church Chaplains to share their stories.

Aged care chaplaincy

Rev Pam Batson, a Chaplain with Blue Care aged care facilities, invited us to go with her into the room of a dying resident.

“There is much that can happen at this time – the resident may just want you to sit with them, hold their hand and listen to music with them. They might want you to read special passages of scripture with them or to sing some old favourite hymns. They might want to confess to you or to discuss what or how they are feeling about their death. They might want to tell you what they want in their funeral and ask you to write it down and give it to their family.

“These are just some of the things that I have had the privilege of being involved with when a resident is near death.”

Ms Batson said that at this special time, family members react in many ways.

“I have had many special moments with family members as they come to terms with the impending death or the death of a loved one, as they share their memories of the person, as they seek to have someone baptised before their death and ask questions about what happens after death.

Sometimes, following the death, Ms Batson is asked by the family to conduct the funeral for their loved one but she also conducts a memorial services for the residents so they are able to share their memories of the person and to say their own goodbyes. “For many residents this is a very sacred time.”

As a Deacon in the Uniting Church Ms Batson sees chaplaincy in an aged care facility as a way of expressing God’s love, forgiveness, acceptance and compassion with those with whom she is called to minister.

School chaplaincy

Rev Graham Cole has served as Chaplain in a school of 1400 students for the past 14 years.

“My overall role is one of spiritual leadership taking responsibility with the headmaster for spiritual life and Christian ethos within Brisbane Boys’ College.”

Together with an Associate Chaplain and two full-time Christian education teachers Mr Cole has oversight of the Christian Education curriculum and worship within chapels and assemblies. Mr Cole said it has been particularly encouraging over the past two years to have more Christian parents sending their boys to Brisbane Boys’ College because of the Christian ethos.

Over the years Mr Cole has particularly enjoyed telling ‘boys own’ adventure stories to boarders at 9pm on a Thursday night. “They are a real hit and often the older boys will ask is it story night tonight. During Term 4 we run a Christianity Explained lunch time course. It is so encouraging to see a number of boys make personal commitments at the end of that. This course is actually taught by students in year 10, 11 and 12 to younger boys and their peers.”

Mr Cole said one of the more recent directions that God has given him is not to do it all himself but to involve students in ministry. “At our final house Chapel services we have students preaching. We sit down together to fine tune what they will say. I would have to say that it is a real blessing to me hearing the boys preach.”

The Chaplaincy team embraces a variety of worship experiences at the school so together with Christian education teacher Matt Smith, Mr Cole leads a Christian meditation where about 25 or 30 boys bring their pillows and lie on the floor in the chapel. “Worship music is quietly played and then quietly we speak out affirming passages of scripture over the boys’ lives. The boys always leave so refreshed after half an hour.”

Police chaplaincy

For Rev Doug Foster, serving as a Police Chaplain is being part of a team with a very clear description of what the role entails.  

“There is a keen expectation that we fulfill it to our best, and we are encouraged and supported as we do.  “It is knowing that when a community disaster occurs my role is to provide pastoral support, and expertise in helping lead public grieving.”

Mr Foster also has the privilege of caring for Police families in their times of grief and conducting the funeral of those killed in the line of duty. “There is the regular activity of what is called ‘walking the floor’. These conversations can cover a wide range from key personal issues through to how particular incidents affect them and their colleagues, to just how the Cowboys and Broncos are going this year.”

As a Chaplain, Mr Foster believes it is all part of building up the trust and confidence necessary for the difficult times. 

Hospital chaplaincy

For Lorraine Lumsden involvement in pastoral care in a parish situation led to a two year pastoral care course and ultimately to the Ecumenical Hospital Chaplaincy Course during which she found her calling to chaplaincy. 

“As a Uniting Church chaplain, my ward visiting has been mainly to patients who have nominated the Uniting Church as their denomination of choice. Hospitalisation places people in a vulnerable situation and a chaplain is seen as someone  in a neutral position who can listen to their concerns.” 

Ms Lumsden has served as a volunteer chaplain at Princess Alexandra, QEII, Mater and Greenslopes hospitals in Brisbane. She spoke of one woman who has battled for a long time with her illness and ultimately had to succumb to radical surgery.  “Her strong faith was a witness to all who met her.  She was a blessing to me as I hope I was to her.”

Ms Lumsden said as a pastoral carer in the Emergency Department she needed to relate on an ecumenical basis to patients of all faiths and denominations who require care.  “Witnessing the anguish of a Muslim father at his daughter’s distress and being asked to pray to God for her was a special privilege.”

 Ms Lumsden said it is a privilege to journey with patients, their loved ones and staff whether they have a faith or no faith at all.

“I believe chaplaincy is a mission field, a cutting edge, where people may be reached and encouraged to have that sacred space within each one of us filled with the love of God.”

Tourism chaplaincy

Tourism Chaplain Rev Terry Ayling told Journey about a remarkable woman whose body was riddled with cancer.

A resident of Hamilton Island and a part-time staff member, she was a regular at All Saints Chapel, the only regular church service in the Whitsunday islands. “She relished the freedom to ask questions and to explore and express her faith, often in the most colourful of ways. Sharing the Lord’s Supper each week really seemed to nourish her but in those times that we received the communion bread from her hands and heard the words, ‘the body of Christ’, it nourished us in ways we had not often experienced."

The Sunday afternoon following her death Mr Ayling led a “celebration of her life, love and laughter” in All Saints Chapel. “Families came, women touched by her life, children from school, friends and fearers of grief themselves. We shared stories of her life, remembered how she reminded us of Jesus, enjoyed our memories and allowed faith to nourish us again.”

One girl came with a butterfly that she wanted to release as a memory. “It was a simple and moving spiritual act.”

That night in the Chapel as Mr Ayling listened to the Scriptures being read and prayers being offered by the residents, staff and guests who had gathered for worship, he noticed the little butterfly still there, hovering above the rafters and smiled, remembering that we are not alone.

“To be able to share in this moment and all moments like these, even unknowingly, and to be reminded of God’s presence in and with and through us is the gift of the Chaplain.”

Photo : Brisbane Boys College senior students meet with Chaplain Rev Graham Cole. Photo by Osker Lau