John was only 10 when he broke his leg pretty badly. He ended up in hospital and was in a fair bit of pain. He asked his mum, “Why is God punishing me?”
John’s mum didn’t know what to say. They were not a religious family and never talked about God. She shared her unease with the social worker. The social worker thought this was serious enough to make a referral to the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist was a Christian man who listened carefully to John and his concerns. The psychiatrist thought this was serious enough to make a referral to the chaplain.
John was not having a psychiatric issue but a spiritual one. It didn’t really matter where he got the idea from that God was punishing him. The idea was there, and for John it was real. A real spiritual issue.
Some people are surprised that our public hospitals provide chaplains. But our health professionals recognise that our health is not just physical and mental but also spiritual.
The chaplain came to see John and listened to his concerns. He had some ideas about God that he had picked up from just general conversations and from television. They were ideas of a popular culture and not what God says about himself. The chaplain was able to show John in the Bible what God says about himself and about us. From this conversation with the chaplain, John was able to get a better idea of who God is and he came to understand that to know God, he could find out all about Him from the Bible.
Chaplains in NSW hospitals and prisons represent their own churches or other faith groups. But they will bring spiritual care to anyone who is in hospital or prison. Our Anglican chaplains won’t proselytise people of other faiths but will bring them spiritual care following the example of Jesus.
A Buddhist man asked the Anglican chaplain about prayer. Not knowing a thing about Buddhist prayer the chaplain could only talk about it from a Christian perspective, which the man welcomed. As they talked over the next few weeks the man put his trust in Jesus and was baptised in the prison chapel.
Being a chaplain in a prison or hospital is a great privilege. It also has great responsibilities. The chaplain is dealing with matters of eternal significance in the lives of fellow human beings. Our Anglicare chaplains are well trained in understanding the Bible and in how to listen to people’s real concerns. They have learnt how to be faithful to God’s truth and yet to maintain a genuine compassion for others who may not share that truth.
Manager – Diocesan Chaplaincy