Chaplains: in their own words

“At the end of the summer term a student requested a meeting and proceeded to challenge me with questions, “How do you know God exists? What about same sex marriage? Why suffering?”.

“She talked, I listened. She accepted a New Testament and as she read it questions changed to those about scripture. Time and space to simply be and sit silently in church was appreciated.

“Questions persisted via email and face to face until a few weeks later she moved away to university.

“Now the University Christian Union and the local Alpha Course are continuing to journey with her as God seeks her out….and we continue to exchange emails.”

Revd Julie Birkett, Chaplain Weston College


“Two in the morning.  The hospital car park deserted.  Corridors empty.  In the dimly lit ward a solitary nurse takes me to the bedside of a lady who has just died.  For the family clustered there her last illness is over.

“But her love for them is still alive, achingly present in the parting of the soul from the body.

“‘Something’ needs to be done – to acknowledge the mystery of death, to affirm all that she means to them, to minister to her soul as she makes this once-only passage to the next life.  That is why I’ve come.”

Sister Sarah Overton, Chaplain RUH, Bath


“Funny how little things can lead to such life changing events.

“In 2010, 40 Commando Royal Marines were having a hard time in Afghanistan. Fatalities were mounting up and wives and children were constantly on edge and fearing the worse.

“A chance conversation, a word from God and I was pitched into helping create a small group of local Christian volunteers who wanted to make a difference to these strong minded but utterly vulnerable families. Funding arrived, the closed military hierarchy welcomed us in, communities gathered around and churches opened their doors. Talks to the congregations produced good Christian helpers and 4-40 Volunteers was formed.”

“As one wife said ‘… the volunteers of 4-40 were truly a lifeline when I needed it most … thank you and God Bless.’ This was Chaplaincy and God working together to make a difference where it counted most. The 4-40 Volunteers continue to this day.”

Sue Burr – 4-40 Commando Chaplaincy


“As Chaplain to the Deaf in the diocese, I offer personal pastoral care and support to deaf people in need or distress. Bereavement support is included in this.

“I went to visit a profoundly deaf man whose father had just died. His mother had died six months before and he was distraught because he had now lost both parents. He had no understanding about the process of death or cremation because no-one had explained to him in his own language – sign language. There had been no interpreter at his mother’s cremation so he couldn’t understand anything! His English was not well-developed so he could not follow the written word.

“He was bewildered by it all and asked “Where did my mother go?” We had a long chat in sign and I was able to explain the process and what Christians believe. He took it all in and his whole face lit up. He thanked me for explaining and helping him understand.

“At his father’s funeral I interpreted for him so he could follow the service. Since then he has regularly attended Deaf Church once a month and his Christian faith has developed.”

Karen Pam Gottrick – Chaplain to the Deaf


“All human beings need to feel loved and understood and dementia patients are no different. When memory fades love takes its place.

“When I enter a person’s sphere – even for just thirty seconds –  I will be whoever they want me to be, I will tell them they are loved, they are special, they are beautiful – because they are.  The person is still there because the person is spirit. I am their advocate and their story teller.”

Christine Winter – Chaplaincy in a Dementia Home, Taunton


“We treat every death from conception products to full term death with the same dignity and compassion as we would the death of a 90 yr old.

“We deal with more baby loss than anything else. Our work along side families in antenatal clinics and labour wards affirms the life of these little ones however early they are born, reassuring parents that their babies are precious to us and God.

“This work appears to help grieving parents by acknowledging their babies. We offer services in our chapel, provide naming certificates, a baby book of condolence and free burial of ashes along with other little ones under 16 weeks and individual burial for babies over 16 weeks.

“In August this year we buried 40 little ones pre 16 weeks. It takes it toll on everyone from the midwives to the families and chaplains. As the chaplains we only let it show between ourselves.”

Susie Parsons – Musgrove Park Hospital Taunton


“As volunteer chaplains at Mendip YMCA we form relationships with all those who work, live and visit the YMCA. We are trustees. We endeavour to be church outside of church buildings, to be a Christian presence, to pray and to be a bridge between Mendip YMCA and Frome churches.

“The work of the support workers is hugely challenging, so we try to encourage them on dark days.

“There has recently been a specific incident with a young girl. She has had the most troubled of childhoods, and has started hearing voices urging her to harm herself and others. Many  professionals are  involved in her care. But she has asked specifically to see us.

“She has no church background, but believes in an afterlife. She has asked us to pray with her, and we meet regularly. This is an ongoing situation. We try to be alongside her and help her to understand how much God loves her.”

Miriam Hare – Mendips YMCA


 “’I’m worried about my wobberly tooth’” read the note posted in the Worry and Prayer Box –  just one of the many worries that find their way to me: my mum’s got cancer; my friends don’t like me anymore; please help me to be good; my rabbit has died; I’m frightened of the dog who lives next door; I’m having bad dreams; my dad has gone away; I’m having an operation.  They are many – and far-ranging.”

“The Worry and Prayer Box is an invitation for pupils to contact the school chaplain for a chat and a short prayer, and a commitment for the chaplain to continue to pray. It’s a time when pupils can be listened to and helped to explore some of their feelings. It’s surprising how the question, ‘is there anything else you are worried about?’ leads to further areas of sharing. Sometimes there needs to be liaison with the staff or other support workers.

“Over the years this part of chaplaincy has been a huge privilege, but also a demanding one.  The Worry and Prayer Box was set up six years ago and is just one of the ways for pupils to make contact. Soon after its introduction my eyes were opened when a parent said, ‘is it ok for parents to use this too?’”

Rev Jenny Jeffery – Chaplain of Bishop Henderson Primary School



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