I remember seeing a TV program about a chaplain in country Victoria visiting farming families. There he was, helping repair a fence. When quizzed about what he thought chaplaincy was, he said that it was “doing what needed to be done”.
The program revealed that his chaplaincy was more than that. His visit was an assurance to each family that someone was there for them. The “doing what needed to be done” was a demonstration that he was part of their dream, their struggle, their longing. He was with them. The mutuality was obvious from the way they opened the front door to him.
He was not asking them to be part of his life. If he said a prayer with them, it wasn’t to exert a religious influence on to them or their situation. It was more like thinking aloud, from the heart.
Yesterday I visited a Magistrate from Bangledesh over here to complete a Masters. I hadn’t seen N for a while and for some reason she came to mind. So I dropped in to her flat on my way home.
She was delighted to see me and told me that her oldest child had been asking why he hadn’t seen “Grandpa” for a while. I had no idea I meant anything to him – he always disappeared into his room whenever I visited!
N would return to Bangladesh at the end of the year. She was anxious that above all she needed to maintain her moral standards. She was already anticipating the dilemmas she would have to face because of the widespread corruption in her country – the obligatory bribes. And the consequences of putting away corrupt officials.
I was on holy ground.
Chaplaincy is accompanying people in the ups and downs of their lives. It’s remembering them, and being willing to “do what needs to be done”.
St Francis is reputed to have said: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words“ and to “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”