At ANGLICARE chaplaincy we’re keen to link our Chaplains ministering in hospitals, prisons, mental health, juvenile justice and aged care with local churches. This is because Christian ministry can’t be done in isolation from the congregation of God’s people. All ministry arises out of the Christian community. The ministry Chaplains are doing in these hard places is, in a very real sense, the ministry of the Churches.
While the clergy and lay people of the parishes don’t have easy access into these hard places, the Chaplains are there with the recognition and authority of the Government to bring Christian care. However, more and more, members of our churches are seeking opportunity to minister to people in hospitals, prisons and aged care. This is probably happening more as Baby Boomers reach retirement age. ANGLICARE is training more people who want to volunteer for Christian ministry in these places.
Recently one of the volunteers in our training course was a bit sceptical about what they were being taught. “I’m 62 years old. I don’t need to be taught to listen. I’ve been listening to my wife all my life!” he said, cheekily. “Why am I being taught to listen when the people in the nursing home need to hear the gospel?”
To his credit, this trainee decided on his first visit with a resident that he would try to practice what he was being taught. He would listen. He admitted later on that there was a bit of, “I’ll show them this listening thing doesn’t work. People need to be saved, and they are saved by hearing the word.”
To his surprise however, the resident, after telling him some of his life story and struggles, said to him, “You know, you’re the first person who has ever really listened to me. I sometimes wonder if God hears me or cares for me.” Our student suddenly realised how empowering it was for the resident to feel someone really did listen to them. With a sense of being listened to and therefore valued, the resident was comfortable enough to open up about other issues he had with God. And the volunteer was able to speak about the wonderful news of God’s love in Christ.
This volunteer not only came to understand the power of listening but also developed a whole new respect for people. When the resident had told him he was the first person who had really listened, he was humbled. The resident had developed what was actually a deep confidence and trust in him in only a few minutes. Being humbled by this he didn’t want to blow it by showing any sort of disrespect for the resident. He didn’t want to see this man as just a soul to be saved, another scalp to the evangelist’s belt. He suddenly saw him as a valuable human being for whom Christ died. A person created in the image of God with value as that image and therefore to be treated with the utmost respect.
And so the listening went on. Respect grew. And the necessary challenge of the gospel did not become a threat and didn’t create any awkwardness. Out of mutual respect this is how the conversation continued: “And what about you, John? Just like me you’ll be facing Jesus as your judge one day. Have you thought about putting your trust in him now?” “No, I haven’t, Harry, but I think I should, don’t you?”
Feature photo: Esthr