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Full-time demands of NHS chaplaincy

10 August 2012


From Canon Ronnie Clark
Sir, - As a retired whole-time hospital chaplain and chaplaincy co-ordinator of some 27 years' experi­ence, and a further seven years' part-time experience of hospital chaplaincy as a parochial priest, I read with interest and concern in your Gazette of the appointment of many hospital chaplains as NSM or Associate Priest, or with house for duty, almost weekly.

Knowing that hospital chaplaincy is a demanding but very rewarding ministry, not a nine-to-five job, but a vocation requiring sometimes up to 60 hours a week, and much out-of-hours "on call" duty; and that it combines tremendous pastoral care, liturgical worship, and front-line mission (more by deed than by word), in a vastly secular setting and institution, I am mystified to see that these additional ministries are re­garded as the norm.

First, how does the NHS view this development in a time of stringency and the review of future provision? Most NHS managers, I am sure, are not keen to see a reduction of input in the chaplaincy, nor to subsidise the parochial system.

Second, are the Bishops keen or happy to remove fine priests from the sharp end of pastoral care, liturgical worship, and mission in society, i.e. the NHS, and use them instead to minister to the gathered few in congregations that, sadly, are declining? They could be bringing the faith to people, and people to faith, by the millions in the course of their hospital-chaplaincy voca­tion.
Inishfree, Lefka Ori View
Xirosterni 73008, Vamos
Chania, Crete, Greece

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