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Rev Dr Wendi Sargeant and Michelle Richardson at first train the trainer session. Photo: Elly Waite

Volunteers C.A.R.E. to revitalise pastoral care volunteering

James O’Callaghan looks at a new initiative from the Synod Chaplaincy Commission created in partnership with UnitingCare Queensland to curve the declining trend of pastoral care volunteers within the Queensland Synod.

During the 1990s and early 2000s there was an increase in pastoral care volunteering with many seeing it as their way of serving God and receiving a tremendous amount of satisfaction from the work and the camaraderie amongst members of the pastoral care team.

In the past, local ministers were actively involved in the recruitment of pastoral carers to serve in local agencies and services, and chaplains were often seen visiting congregations to promote the work of chaplaincy with pastoral care courses readily accessible and free to complete.

But times have changed, and the number of pastoral care volunteers is now declining.

Michelle Richardson—a chaplain at the Wesley Hospital and part of the planning team for Volunteers C.A.R.E.—notes shrinking numbers of existing pastoral care volunteers, due to ill health, age or volunteer retirement.

A reference group showed there were similar challenges across each of the chaplaincy contexts. 

“We also saw a decline in new pastoral care volunteer numbers, along with access to appropriate pastoral care courses,” says Michelle.

The Volunteers C.A.R E. initiative has been years in the making and endeavours to revitalise this commitment towards pastoral care volunteering.

The initiative comprises Courses Activating volunteers to Respond to the emotional, pastoral and spiritual needs of people Everywhere (C.A.R.E.).

The initiative is endorsed by the Queensland Synod Chaplaincy Commission as a recognised pastoral care volunteer pathway within the Queensland Synod and is proudly supported by Uniting Church Public Hospital Chaplaincy Queensland, UnitingCare Queensland and Wesley Mission Queensland.

In recent months, an initial train the trainer session was held to train the first group of chaplains in delivery of the course, and a pilot Volunteers C.A.R.E. Essentials course was run to train and equip volunteer pastoral carers.

Queensland Synod Chaplaincy Commission Executive Officer Rev Keren Seto says these courses provide the beginnings of a pathway into a variety of pastoral care contexts.

“In local congregations, communities of Christian faith and also moving into more context-specific pastoral care volunteer roles,” says Keren. “As part of this program, we have developed a volunteer recruitment plan with a focus on volunteers within both the Uniting Church and other Christian denominations.”

For more information on the Volunteers C.A.R.E. initiative, visit the website.

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