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Queensland Synod chaplaincy educator Lynne Gibson works with Cert IV Pastoral Care students online and in the classroom
Queensland Synod chaplaincy educator Lynne Gibson works with Cert IV Pastoral Care students online and in the classroom. Photo: Holly Jewell

Volunteers share the chaplaincy load

May is the month of Chaplaincy Sunday and National Volunteer Week. Ashley Goetze speaks with two Uniting Church volunteer chaplains about their sector’s needs.

Health care, aged care, education, police and emergency services, defence, tourism, human services and sport and recreation are the seven formal sectors of chaplaincy found within the Uniting Church.

Need and calling draw out volunteer chaplains who, along with their paid counterparts, fulfill the church’s vision to express ministry into the community and journey alongside people who don’t necessarily own faith.

“Being able to bring hope into a place of despair, that’s what we do,” says UnitingCare Community Prison Ministry chaplain, Greg Tschernez.

Struck by the final words of Matthew 25:36 “I was in prison and you came to visit me”―Greg has spent two days a week for the last five years visiting inmates in the Brisbane area.

“You know, those guys feel so unworthy and we often get asked about Jesus and the Christian faith and we’ve got to be able to answer those questions as well and as best we can,” says Greg.

The ability to answer these questions comes in the form of a Certificate IV in Pastoral Care, the base-line training set by the Queensland Synod Chaplaincy Commission for those working on behalf of the church.

“It’s different from a usual work position in that you stay for as long as you’re needed,” says St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital chaplain, Gail Ayre.

Gail, a former nurse, became involved at St Andrew’s in Brisbane after experiencing the comforting presence of a chaplain first hand.

“My husband [Clive] had heart surgery there back in 2003. Things didn’t go quite right and I was pretty upset … so to just be given that support and know someone cares … it’s very important,” says Gail.

Community, purpose and the opportunity to help others drew Gail out of retirement and into volunteer chaplaincy. The UnitingCare Hospital and Prison Ministry chaplaincy teams are always on the lookout for qualified volunteers.

“I know that at St Andrew’s we’re pretty light on,” says Gail. “I’m the only volunteer at this stage and so it’s been important to help spread the load.”

Following the Chaplaincy Commission’s vision to grow chaplaincy as a healthy and sustainable part of the church, new online courses are on offer at Trinity Theological College to include regional and remote Queenslanders in chaplaincy education.

For more information about participating in a Certificate IV in Pastoral Care, contact John Coles or Lynne Gibson at Trinity Theological College at ttc [at] ucaqld.com.au or 3377 9821.

Chaplaincy Sunday is 25 May.

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