A Monk and a Chaplain

Since the beginning of September I have joined the chaplaincy team at Nevill Hall Hospital, Abergavenny. In the next few days I will be visiting the wards on my own, but for the first month I have been shadowing Fr Michael and Rev’d Les (one of the other chaplains). I feel I am beginning to find my feet within the team and my confidence is beginning to grow. I am in the hospital Monday – Friday in the mornings, but also around on a Thursday afternoon. Each day, and week, however has never been the same… here is some of what I have been up to.

The majority of the time I am in NH I am up on the wards visiting and chatting to people, this is still an aspect of the job I am getting used to – it is incredibly hard not to say ‘how are you?’ when you first greet someone – I dare you to have a try next time you see someone. When I first started at the hospital, Fr Michael gave me a sheet with what not to say or do on it – good homework practice for visiting on the wards. Some of the points on the sheet are obvious and common sense but some made me take a moment and think ‘oh, yes, I wouldn’t have thought not to do/say that’. Sometimes what we feel is most natural to say or do is the very thing we should avoid, asking questions such are ‘how are you’ are closed ended and may not lead to conversation, even though it may be the most natural question to ask someone. Visiting people is only one aspect of hospital chaplaincy though, as I have quickly found out.

The staff are also in need of a conversation at times and over in the Royal Gwent hospital (Newport) the chaplaincy team set up a session for staff called ‘Chill Out’ which is a two hour drop in session in the chapel for any staff to drop in to on their lunch break to have a space to relax and rest in. There are massage chairs, massage practitioners, neck and feet massagers, hand scrubs and a bountiful supply of tea, coffee, hot chocolate and biscuits. As of October 1st we have started up Chill Out in Nevill Hall and thus far have had a good response. This is a time in the week where we, as a team, can interact with the staff and serve them and show them hospitality.

As well as all I have mentioned thus far, there is admin work to be done – this is one part of the chaplaincy job I am experiencing which many other volunteers would not. As I am in the hospital five days a week I am able to be in the office if Fr Michael needs to go to a meeting or is called away, I am there to answer the phone, and have begun being involved in writing the prayers for the Sunday Eucharist service in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board hospitals. All of this is vital to the running of the chaplaincy team and something I am more than willing to help out with, because if I do go onto to be a full time chaplain in the future this will become a daily reality.

All the experience thus far has been invaluable, I feel very grateful to have these opportunities and Fr Michael and the team have all been very welcoming, supportive and have faith in me which is incredibly encouraging. I am looking forward to going visiting on my own in days to come and growing in this role, it will not always been plain sailing and I am sure I will make mistakes but it is all a learning curve and amazing opportunity.

I have been able to visit most of the wards, I spent a morning in theatre meeting the staff, seeing operating theatres and finding out what happens before and after operations. This was an incredible experience and one I will take with me as I journey through this year. I have never had an operation so do not know the fear and anxiety one may feel but the staff showing me round did what they could to explain how patients may feel and how the staff feel when things go wrong.

The chaplaincy team give a lot of support to the staff, as well as the patients, and also they support family and friends. Thus far I have not had any interaction with family and friends but as the time goes on I have no doubt I may come into contact with some and hopefully I will be able to be there for them.

I am still in the early days of building my confidence but each day I am in Nevill Hall I am learning more and gaining a wealth of experience. I feel extremely blessed to be given this opportunity and hope I will be able to glorify God as I meet and care for people. I would appreciate your prayers for all staff, patients, friends and families and for myself and the chaplaincy team as we minister in this place.

In all we do may the glory be God’s and may we be faithful servants of our Lord and Saviour as we share the news of our Father’s saving grace. Amen.

Blessings in Christ,

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