New support network for non-school chaplains

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Hospital and aged care spiritual carers.

A support network is being established for Seventh-day Adventist chaplains working in aged-care centres, hospitals and prisons.

It will provide opportunities for chaplains to keep up with current trends and findings in chaplaincy, experience fellowship and encouragement through regular contact, and share resources.

While school-based chaplains have received special focus over the past few years, the same cannot be said for chaplains working in these other fields, who have largely worked independently, according to Dr Trafford Fischer, who cares for Family and Chaplains Ministries in the South Pacific Division’s Discipleship Ministries Team.

These non-school chaplains will now be referred to as “spiritual carers”—in part to help to avoid confusion with school chaplains as well as reflecting the more common terminology in both private and public institutions.

“The school chaplains held an Australia-wide conference last year that was an outstanding event that helped to build morale, share resources and ideas, and provide encouragement and affirmation for their ministry,” he said. “Our wish is that we can do the same for spiritual carers. They need to know their ministry is highly valued and appreciated in the hospitals, aged-care centres and prisons in which they minister.

“Often pastors are asked to care for this ministry with little specific training and little support. This is what we are hoping to change.”

The first “Spiritual Carers Conference” is being planned for later this year where spiritual carers from around Australia and New Zealand will receive information on current best practice in spiritual care for hospitals and aged-care centres. It will be an opportunity for networking, and for the spiritual carers to receive encouragement and inspiration for ongoing ministry. 

"Often pastors are asked to care for this ministry with little specific training and little support. This is what we are hoping to change."

There are also plans to build a database of spiritual carers to find out where they are ministering, what they do, and what training and resources they might need.

A clinical pastoral education (CPE) course—widely recognised as a core training component for spiritual carers—has restarted this year at Sydney Adventist Hospital.

Dr Fischer said spiritual carers do an extraordinary job in difficult circumstances, often when people are at their most vulnerable and experiencing high levels of anxiety and stress.

“These can be incredibly challenging and confronting times and require sensitive, caring and tender-hearted people who can be there to say the right words, to offer prayer and words of encouragement, and let their patients and inmates know that someone cares.”

For more details about the Spiritual Carers Conference, which will be held August 30-September 1 at Sydney Adventist Hospital, email <steve.stephenson@sah.org.au>.

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