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An Unexpected Chaplain

Thursday 4th July 2024

Chaplains are a 'link in the chain' for patients and families to hear about Christ and feel the presence of God through us. 
Morling Chaplaincy Student Karen

Karen had thought Chaplaincy was not for her and then God intervened by taking skills from her career in a direction she had not previously imagined. Karen's story will encourage you today. Is God shaping you to take your skills in new directions? 


Karen had spent 30 years as senior administrator at a regional University. She worked across many roles and with a diverse range of multi-cultural students and staff. Karen see’s that it was God that directed her into this career and God who shaped her for the work. It was her Christian belief’s that provided her with a frame of honesty, integrity, kindness and caring, and a willingness to have a teachable heart. It is not obvious from the outset how a career in administration might prepare someone for chaplaincy, but God took her on a journey which helped her realise she had a lifetime of preparation to do so.


After her retirement Karen had been involved in pastoral care with her local church when she decided to consider Chaplaincy. She took a short course on pastoral care with the outcome that she decided that chaplaincy was not for her! Then quite unexpectedly she became ill and spent the next couple of years experiencing life as a patient. She says, “During my recouperation, I was asking God about what he wanted me to do once I recovered, and felt led to apply for volunteering chaplaincy, after having had the perspective of a patient.’ God was taking her in a new direction.


Karen now volunteers at a regional public hospital. What does this involve? A day starts with meeting with the Hospital Chaplain and prayer asking that the Holy Spirit might go before them and lead to people who need care. Then it is time to visit the wards. Her role is


“ to be a compassionate listening presence to whatever they need to talk about. We come with no agenda as we aren't medical staff or family, but we are there to support patients with empathy, which builds connection, and spiritually care for them. Sometimes we have the privilege of speaking about the things of God and praying for patients, however, we are very respectful and guided by the needs of the patient.”

Karen says at the beginning of her experience in chaplaincy she would ‘wonder if I did or said the right thing’. Study at Morling has helped inform her practice.  


“I have grown in my role, I have learnt that it’s about 'being with' a patient and having a non-anxious presence, actively listening and being attentive to what their real concerns are and how I can best support them. Having further learning in chaplaincy has also contributed to my understanding of a chaplain’s role”


Karen is studying a Graduate Certificate of Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care.  It appealed to her as she was looking for a biblical sound and more in-depth chaplaincy course to develop chaplaincy skills and provide solid pastoral theory to enhance her understanding.  Her call to chaplaincy ministry has been confirmed through her study. In addition to gaining more practical chaplaincy skills, she has grown in her self-awareness which has helped consolidate her identity as a chaplain. Karen would say this is the most important thing she has learnt through her course. This has helped her reflect on the skills she has honed over a lifetime of listening and taking minutes in professional meetings. She now recognises that she had been developing supporting and listening skills for thirty years through her career. She just didn’t know how God intended to use those skills.


Asked about the joys of chaplaincy work Karen notes that the blessing is both hers and the patients. The blessing for her is knowing she has made a difference.  And she sees patients’ appreciation at having someone who will take the time to sit and listen and to value them in a non-judgemental. Sometimes this allows Karen, as a Christian, to share her perspective with them. 


“I have been amazed to see the Holy Spirit working in the Hospital through guiding us to the right patient to speak with.  As we spend time with people, their hearts are softened and open to hear the things of Christ and allowing us to pray with them.  Chaplains are a ‘link in the chain’ for patients and families to hear about Christ and feel the ‘presence’ of God through us.”


Karen is a nurturer who has been serving God in multiple settings throughout her life. How does she relax? In the garden where she can quite literally get her hands in the dirt and ground herself, where she nurtures seedlings for a vegetable garden and where she can bring her concerns to God free of distraction. The God who worked through difficulty to demonstrate to her he had a role for her in Chaplaincy and who has gifted and skilled her for the role. 1 Corinthians 12:4 - 6 encourages us


“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.


Is God shaping you to take your skills in new directions? Morling offers a suite of awards in the field of Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care. Ranging from the Graduate Certificate to Masters. Read here to discover more.

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