A young man was admitted to ‘Accident and Emergency’, the family soon arrived to be at his bedside in Intensive Care. The man had fallen from a motorbike and was in a bad way. The Chaplain was called. They stood with the family. As the family cried, the Chaplain couldn’t stop the tears.
After a while – who knows how long when facing such trauma – the Mother turned and said “thank you for all you’ve done“.
Words weren’t necessary – it was being there that mattered.
Have you been to a hospital and seen the Chaplain on the ward. They, anecdotally, are always preparing services but far more often are listening to those who seek spiritual care, who want to tell another their story. The Chaplain isn’t there to give deep theological perspectives. Many hospitals now see spiritual care as part of the whole holistic care package, since as we are complex beings, spiritual support can also play its part in our overall wellbeing.
Chaplains, historically, were those who would tear their cloak or coat into two, and share it with another traveller. They would ‘walk together’ – as the hospital chaplain did metaphorically.
Today chaplains are present in many different areas where the Church are not expected. They could be Street Angels or Street Pastors on our streets at night in the large towns/cities, even in Spain, as we celebrate or possibly commiserate. They could be nightclub chaplains which work within the nightclub supporting the staff and clients, even some female chaplains who support the ‘ladies of the night’, for they also may seek care. There are Festival Angels who help and care those at our many music festivals across the country. There are race course chaplains at places such as Ripon, York and Redcar.
The question might be where shouldn’t there be a Chaplain?
In the past, our Christian teaching may say that we don’t go to certain places…bars…betting shops…gambling places…strip bars. But these chaplains stand at the margins of different worlds, neither a ‘singing saint’ nor a moralising poet, allowing that conversation to exist. They don’t seek to convert but simply show love.
“We are not in the club to preach at people but to simply offer a listening ear and a helping hand. For us it is about demonstrating that God loves people and that means caring for those who have become unwell, or may be upset or vulnerable, and in need of a friendly face and a helping hand.”Dundee Rock Chaplains
In Todmorden we have Interfaith Chaplains who are Christian and Muslim. Their individual faith sustains the Chaplain as they help, support, care and love the person in front of them, regardless of the person’s faith. It shows that the different faith communities not only exist but can dovetail together to strengthen communities, building bridges.
So who are Chaplains? We all are. Anyone who can listen to another, to help, to care, to support, to love: for there is no one we can look at who is not loved by God.