Recently one of our hospital Chaplains took some Long Service Leave. We organised for the assistant minister from a local parish to do a locum for two and half days a week. This was a win for us and a win for the parish. The hospital still needed a Chaplaincy presence. The parish needed help with its funds and this small injection of a few weeks pay for the assistant would be just the thing.
This young minister hadn’t thought much about hospital Chaplaincy. It wasn’t real ministry after all. It’s not what they prepared you for in College. The daily round of parish ministry is where the rubber hits the road. Here you get a chance to teach the Bible and interact with people in their everyday lives, encouraging them to be solidly Christian in their family lives, work lives and interactions with neighbours. Hospital Chaplaincy is for those who, well, don’t quite make it in real ministry. But he was willing to give it a go.
He was surprised with his very first visit. He had a list of “Anglican” patients in the hospital and approached the first one. He introduced himself as the Anglican Chaplain to a man in his early seventies. “Ah, I don’t go to church these days mate. I used to teach Sunday School when I was a teenager but my mother died of cancer when I was twenty. There didn’t seem much point anymore.” “You must have loved your mother very much.” The old man began to cry. Through the tears and emotion the conversation went on. The emotion rose as the man came to realise that the God he had taught about, and believed in, was still the same. This God had his mother’s, and his own, best interests at heart. He became overwhelmed with the thought that God hadn’t abandoned him. And he became deeply saddened at the thought of the many years he had spent distancing himself from God. The young minister encouraged him to turn again to God, seek forgiveness and accept the salvation bought for him by the blood of Jesus.
Coming away from that conversation the young minister was completely drained. In four and half years of ministry he had never had such an intense conversation. He had never been so deeply engaged in a gospel conversation such as this in his entire Christian life. But he had seen the Spirit of God touch a man’s life and bring him back into fellowship with the Father and the Son. Sitting under a tree in the hospital grounds just to gather himself he began to get very excited. He realised God had led him to this man today and had used him to bring the Good News of Jesus to a man who had been lost. He wanted to race home and tell his wife.
Over the next few weeks the young minister found that each day he was keen to get to the hospital. He was even disappointed when he woke in the mornings and remembered that today was a parish day. In the hospital he had many similar conversations with people who had drifted away from former Christian commitment. None of these conversations were as dramatic as the first one but all of them were positive and left people challenged to reconsider their commitment to Jesus. It was not only patients the budding Chaplain encountered. He developed a friendship with the son of a patient. This young man came to church and the relationship is still growing.
This young minister can’t believe what a well kept secret hospital ministry is. He wants more ministers to have the opportunity to be involved. He can see what a fruitful ground it is. He can see what comfort and encouragement a minister of the gospel can bring to people who are thinking about the values of life, to people who are facing the end of life.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, this assistant minister is not the only one I have seen within the last six months get very excited about hospital ministry. Two of our new Chaplains have expressed to me the joy of seeing people come to Christ as they have ministered to them in hospital. The conversations flow naturally. They are not forced but arise out of patients’ genuine concerns that they feel free to express to their Chaplain. These Chaplains are not proselytising. They are simply approaching people of their own denomination and allowing them to say what they feel.
Surprising, really, that more ministers aren’t falling over themselves to be part of this ministry.
Feature photo: quinn.anya