New Cross Hospital
Ministry as a Chaplain within The Wolverhampton Hospital NHS Trust Multi-Faith Chaplaincy Department
Rev Lawrence Wallace
There isn't a typical working day for a hospital chaplain. We may share time with visiting relatives waiting anxiously for visiting time to see their loved one who might be recovering from an operation. We may be called away to conduct a blessing or baptism in the delivery suite. We may be asked to conduct an adult baptism or support traumatised staff.
The proactive role is to be involved in the life of the hospital, so chaplains will find themselves involved in operational groups, ethical groups, in end of life groups, in teaching around death, dying and spirituality.
There are Ecumenical services each Sunday at both New Cross and Cannock Hospitals. Daily we will go to all the acute areas of the hospital to visit the patients and staff, say hello, support them and find out if we can be of assistance.
The reactive side is where we are called to offer spiritual and pastoral care to patients, relatives and staff in a variety of different situations - for example early pregnancy loss.
We are also requested to visit mothers and family who experience the death of a baby. We are called to offer them not only support from a spiritual perspective and a pastoral perspective, but we will also help them undertake whatever ritual and rites they would feel helpful to them and arrange a funeral to enable them to say goodbye to their baby. We will from time to time undertake an adult funeral, but that tends to be when there is no family and no church connections.
Chaplains are here for everybody irrespective of whether they have a faith or not. And very often most of our time is spent with people who do not have an allegiance to a denomination or a faith.
For many people in hospital who do have such an allegiance, their local minister will come in and bring their prayers and support. This is important. Sue Pask, one of our volunteers wrote, from her own experience as a patient, ‘Being poorly is a scary, lonely time. You feel that life stops, that you are no longer in control… lying in a hospital bed forces you to face the stark realities of life, there is nowhere to run. It is probably one of the most testing times for anyone’s faith’.
Increasingly our role is to be with people who may not have a faith, who are expressing spiritual needs and we come in with our experience, our expertise, our inclusiveness and that I think is the most important thing. We are inclusive in our activity and day-to-day work.
We do not judge people, we are not asking them what they believe, we are coming to listen to people and then to try and find the most appropriate ways, whereby their spiritual needs can be addressed by them, with our help. For this a Chaplain is available 24/7 for emergency call-outs.
We are also involved in life and death situations for the whole spectrum of ages, ranging from infants, to people who have a life limiting illness, who are elderly and suffering from dementia, including people with mental health problems who may or may not be within the mental health framework, but may have physical problems and find themselves in an acute hospital as well.
By being proactive, by being available, by being seen around the hospitals, staff will talk to chaplains either in a corridor or in a room about issues that are confronting them.
Most importantly, we need you to keep us in your thoughts and prayers for there are times when the Chaplain is challenged in their ministry and has to sit down and think very carefully about their personal faith.
Rev Lawrence Wallace
Former Chaplain at New Cross Hospital