Anglican hospital chaplains urgently need your support

CHAPLAINCYAnglican chaplains are an important part of the pastoral care offered at hospitals around Melbourne and Geelong. Anglican Media Melbourne caught up with hospital chaplains Stephen Delbridge and Barbara Colliver to talk about their roles and the consequences of recent budget cuts.

By Chris Shearer

October 1 2015

They comfort the sick, the injured and their families when they need it the most. Now Anglican hospital chaplains need your help.

Healthcare chaplains provide spiritual and pastoral support across 13 of Melbourne and Geelong’s major hospitals, but services may have to be reduced as recent budget cuts place pressure on the program.

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Ecumenical hospital chaplaincy is funded by grants from the State Government through Spiritual Health Victoria, with the Diocese of Melbourne and the Melbourne Anglican Foundation Chaplaincy Fund also supporting Anglican chaplains. Recently the State Government grants have been cut, putting a greater burden on the Diocese and Melbourne Anglican Foundation to ensure the service continues.

“So it’s hard to keep it going with the resources we have. We always need more,” says the Revd Stephen Delbridge, Anglican chaplain at the Royal Children’s Hospital and coordinator of Anglican healthcare chaplains across Melbourne and Geelong.

“We won’t be able to supply the same number of chaplains to support people in their time of need, to be the face of the church at work in the hospitals of this city,” he told TMA.

A typical day for Mr Delbridge begins with ecumenical prayers with his colleagues before meeting with nurses and other members of the treating team for patient referrals. He then makes his rounds through the wards, talking to patients and families, offering support where he can or arranging for other faith chaplains to visit if required. He pays special attention to those who have been at the RCH the longest, and those who need to return often for treatment, before searching out those whose stays are thankfully short. He also ensures that he makes some dedicated time for nurses on the wards.

“I can reach out to anyone who needs spiritual support in the hospital,” he says. “The nurses have a very stressful job and it’s good to be able to come aside for a few moments and talk about the life on the ward and the stresses and strains they may encounter.”

Khanh Do, Baptist chaplain and manager of pastoral care at Western Health, says Anglican chaplains’ excellent training means they offer a crucial service. “They can put their priest hat on if they need to, they can put their Christian hat on if they need to or they can simply put on the human hat if they need to,” he told TMA. “So I guess the flexibility and adaptability of Anglican chaplains has been a crucial part of our service here.”

Sharon Osborne, Executive Officer of the Melbourne Anglican Foundation, is urging people from the diocese to ensure this essential service continues by donating to the foundation’s Hospital Chaplaincy Fund. The fund was set up in 1992 and for over 20 years has helped keep Anglican chaplains where they’re most needed.

“We can’t do this without the support of our donors,” she told TMA. “Without you, our donors, the hospital chaplaincy program would not be possible.”

Donate through www.melbourneanglican.org.au/foundation or call (03) 9653 4286. Watch an interview with Stephen Delbridge, Barbara Colliver and Sharon Osborne at www.youtube.com/anglicanmediamelb