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Mining chaplains make a difference

Synod Ministries Coordinator, Rev John Cox. Photo by Osker Lau

THE Synod Chaplaincy Commission has been working towards providing chaplains to mining communities that are often isolated and under pressure from the fly-in, fly-out industry.

With the April announcement that the Norwich Park mine in the Bowen Basin, Central Queensland, will cease operation, the need to support mining communities really hits home.

Synod Ministries Coordinator, Rev John Cox, said mining chaplaincy has been a vision of the Chaplaincy Commission.

"We have recognised both the impacts of mining on the workforce and their families, as well as the impact on communities around which mining is based," he said.
"The Chaplaincy Commission is sponsoring the work to develop a model for chaplaincy into this industry and the communities related to it.

"The mining chaplain could work with the mining workforce in particular locations to support workers in the midst of their daily lives.

"Mining chaplaincy could also develop relationships with congregations in localities from which mining workers fly, and in which their families live, as a supportive network for mining families."

Mr Cox emphasises the importance of mining chaplains in the case of mines shutting down.

Rev Graeme Adsett, a retired Uniting Church minister, volunteers in mining chaplaincy and agrees.

"There is a heightened tension and fear of the unknown when a miner and his or her family are disrupted through loss of work," he said. "The whole economic and social fabric of a community is altered, causing uncertainty, anger, blame, etc., which throws up all manner of pastoral problems for a chaplain to face."

Mr Adsett said one of thebiggest challenges that faces mining chaplaincy is finding suitable chaplains.

"With a shortage of ordained personnel, it requires some out of-the-box thinking.

"Possibly the training of appropriate lay persons who have had experience in the mining industry, and have the capacity and commitment for pastoral ministry.

"Such persons would require resource support, possibly by one ordained person with a roving mandate for the wider mining region."

Mr Adsett said any chaplain working in the mining industry would need to have a good understanding of the political environment as well as an understanding of pastoral issues.

"A chaplain working in the mining industry would need a very balanced approach to his or her work: an honest broker that stands beside people to attend to their genuine needs," he said.

Photo : Synod Ministries Coordinator, Rev John Cox. Photo by Osker Lau