A sermon for Choral Evensong celebrating Chaplaincy, by Susan McLeod
Good Evening, I am Susan McLeod, and I am the Senior Chaplain for Health, Anglicare SA and the community. Thank you for allowing me to be here this evening.
The reading from Acts 11 is particularly relevant to the ministry of Chaplaincy. The Acts of the Apostles records and reflects the early church’s ministry and Acts focuses on Paul’s missionary journeys. The setting is the early Christian church community and its wrestle with “questions that arise due to the changing character, of their expressions of faith, as they begin to minister to predominantly Gentiles. Luke, through his writings, helps his communities to know how to remain faithful to tradition while reinterpreting it for their new circumstances”. This is very similar to the present times where the Christian church, and in particular the Anglican church, is struggling and wrestling with how we express our faith, asking how we remain relevant in Australia and stay true to our faith.
The Gospel reading from John, in particular verse 34 says,
A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.
As Christians we are very familiar with this verse, and we experience and know that God loves us deeply. The challenge then is to ask ourselves do we love one another, do we love the people we encounter each day, do we love our neighbours, our colleagues, do we love the sick, the needy, the different? This is not only a question for us now but has influenced the direction of the church’s ministry in the world.
Chaplaincy emerged during the 19th Century as part of the church’s response to their religious beliefs which was to ‘care for the poor, sick, and needy, and defend their faith. Chaplaincy in our major public hospitals, up until as recently as 2012, was provided by the major denominations. The Anglican church paid for clergy to be present in the hospital and to minister to Anglican’s in the hospitals. Chaplaincy also extended from our parish churches, with the clergy taking weekly services in the Residential Aged Care homes and visiting the Anglican residents offering support and care. Parish Priests, alongside many parishioners acted as chaplains in the community, supplying visits, meals, transport, home communions, using their vocations such as nursing, social work, trade skills, and the list can go on, to offer God’s love to those around them.
Overtime constraints around how we deliver chaplaincy has evolved. Anglican chaplains currently work in diverse contexts. We have chaplains who minister in the major public hospitals in Adelaide, the Glenside Health Service and the Adelaide Clinic. We have chaplains in Anglicare SA supporting and caring for residents in our Aged Care Centres and working with and supporting Anglicare SA staff across the whole organisation. The diversity of chaplaincy in the community is clear when we look at where our community chaplains minister. They are found at Flinders University, Somerton Lifesaving club, A Bikers Club for men focusing on mental health, in the SA Police, in Yatala Prison, St John Ambulance, RSL Veterans Aged Care Centre Myrtle Bank, Mothers Union, Emergency Disaster Relief, and Community Chaplaincy. Our Chaplains are a hardworking, caring, passionate, people, some who are lay-people and some are clergy, some are paid, and many are volunteers. Our Chaplains are the church’s face of God, meeting, and supporting the community, bringing God’s love, peace, reassurance, and comfort, by being a listening presence when asked. Chaplaincy is life giving for both the chaplain and the person they are supporting.
Our Anglican Chaplains do not work alone. They work as part of teams within bigger organisations. Tonight, are gathered chaplains from the larger Christian denominations. Chaplaincy is a multi-faith, ecumenical, approach to assisting community to grapple with the issues of life and to search for meaning, and like the early church, chaplaincy services are re-evaluating how our faith can be expressed in our ever evolving and changing multi-cultural Australia.
As we read in Acts, the church was going through challenging times of change, like the challenges we are facing in the church today. Our context has changed and new ways of engaging with the people in the community is needed. Chaplaincy is one way of achieving this.
Chaplains are available to the community, to clients, patients, residents, staff, regardless of their religious or denominational boundaries. Chaplains listen, and are present, while the people they meet think about the big questions of life, respecting and valuing their perspectives.
An important part of chaplaincy is also to support Anglican’s. A brochure listing the contact details for Anglican Chaplains in most contexts is available on your way out. Please contact the chaplains or their team and let them know if you would like pastoral care and they will offer support. Or please contact me and I will connect you with a chaplain. We are also always recruiting new volunteers to support our chaplains especially in our public hospitals and in residential aged care sites. Please contact me if you would like more information.
I began with the verse from John 13 verse 34. How will you and I respond to this? Is chaplaincy something that God is calling you to be involved in. Are you already acting as a chaplain in your community? God commands us – Love one another as I have loved you.
Chaplaincy is an expression of the living out of this command. Chaplaincy is exciting but often chaplains work is not visible. I have five chaplains here who have volunteered to speak briefly on their chaplaincy contest and their ministry.
Our first Chaplain to be interviewed is Peter Chapman.
- Peter is a deacon in the Murray Diocese
- Southern Local Health Network and is covering Noarlunga Hospital.
- Peter also is a volunteer chaplain to a men’s bikers club which focuses on the mental health of men, and
- Peter will also be starting at Glenside Health part time.
If you knew someone entering Chaplaincy, what advice would you give them?
What ignites the passion that keeps you in Chaplaincy?
Gemma Mayfield is our next Chaplain,
- Gemma has been a spiritual care volunteer at the Women’s and Children’s hospital
- and has filled the position of locum lay chaplain at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital
- and is currently a pastoral care worker at Calvary Hospital.
Gemma, how have you seen the experience of hospitalisation impact on the spirituality of patients and their families?
Carol Cornwall, our third Chaplain, is a
- Deacon in the Murray Diocese
- and is a Chaplain for Anglicare SA at Trott Park Residential Aged Care
- and is an Anglicare SA Employee Support Chaplain in the South.
Carol: What have you found to be the joys, challenges, and surprises of ministry as a chaplain?
Prue O’Donovan, our fourth Chaplain,
- is a Priest in the Adelaide Diocese
- and is an Employee Support Chaplain for Anglicare SA in the north.
- Prue also coordinates the Quickest warmth project.
Prue, your role as Employee Support Chaplain for Anglicare SA is across multiple sites. How do you manage this and what are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach?
Ian Walsh our last Chaplain,
- is an Anglican lay – Spiritual Care volunteer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital
- and a volunteer pastoral care worker at Calvary Hospital.
Ian, why, did you take up Spiritual Care Volunteering and are your expectations any different now that you are involved in Spiritual Care Volunteering?
Thank you all for sharing your insights into chaplaincy. We have heard your enthusiasm, compassion, and care for the people you are ministering with. Thank you.
I would like to finish with a A prayer for chaplaincy sourced from MITE Chaplaincy in Liverpool 2019.
May we all be moved to be chaplains wherever You place us.
May we be your hands and feet, bringing blessings to those we encounter as we receive your blessings.
May we be your voice as we speak into distress and chaos, speaking for justice and love as you speak through us.
May our hearts be wholly yours, loving all without exception as you love us.
Give us the faith to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with you, our God. Amen.