Daily Archives: May 23, 2013

Sharing the Cloak: a Chaplaincy Volunteer speaks about her role


Sue Meredith is a chaplaincy volunteer. She comes in every week to visit patient and one regular Sundays to distribute Holy Communion. Here she speaks movingly of one encounter where she made a difference. Spiritual care at its finest. Oh and the word chaplain is derived from cloak- and the sharing of a cloak in the cold brings great comfort!

At Mid-day, on Sunday, 19th May 2013, the Special Day of Pentecost ~
( for those of you who’ve never heard of Pentecost, take a glimpse at the following light-hearted article on the following website )

~ in beautiful sunshine, I left Worcestershire Royal Hospital with an immense sense of inner peace, something very difficult to describe in real terms, especially when my tour of duty as a Volunteer Chaplain had finished after leaving the bedside of a poorly gentleman who had been overcome whilst he outpoured heart-breaking news of a family trauma, a tragic situation independent of his own medical condition.

We shared Holy Communion as I knelt on the floor by his bedside. No great public act of falling to my knees, simply a means of my being at the same height where the gentleman lay.
In place of the altar in a church building, a small, disposable, soft white tissue placed on the gentleman’s bed. Imprinted on the border of the tissue a lovely, sunny scene was depicted.

On top of this simple, disposable tissue ( which I used for a very practical reason in the name of infection control ), was placed a beautiful , small, contemporary style silver & gold crucifix : a personal gift to me by a dear friend who is not remotely religious, nor a churchgoer, nor connected in any way to any particular formal faith. Yet her love of giving to others in all she’s suffered and endured during the last two years, has been absolutely incredible in her successful battle against cancer at Worcestershire Royal Hospital. My friend’s courage, brightness & sense of humour radiates like sunshine ; and it’s her beautiful gift to me that is now bringing brightness and uplifting to others. Everyone who sees this beautiful little item admires it.

Sharing the ambience of a short, bedside Communion Service full of hope and re-assurance, with that wonderful gentleman on Sunday morning, from the window of his hospital side room , a glimpse of sky could be seen. Beautiful, bright blue intercepted by stunning white clouds amidst sunshine of a lovely May Spring Day, all unexpectedly endorsing the lovely scene on the tissue.

Without pre-planning or pre-determining any agenda before arriving at the hospital, I had no idea that I would visit this gentleman. Yet something had stirred in my heart to place a hand-made card in my bag before leaving home.

The card incorporated my own photo of a gorgeous beach on the tiny island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides with turquoise seas, bright blue sky, lovely, white clouds and silver sand … in part mirroring that stunning skyscape from the window in the gentleman’s hospital room, the skyscape which I pointed out to him as he lay in his bed ; and which brought him a new focus and a smile.

Words on the card quoted “The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi”. It was indeed an intensely emotional moment as we both shared the photocard, speaking words of the prayer together. In the gentleman’s devastation of his family’s tragic circumstances, his voice faltered as tears flowed; and then tears filled my own eyes. Yet, in that sincere emotion, a calm and beauty beyond one’s comprehension filled the room as brightness broke through, echoing some of the words
“…. … where there is despair, HOPE.”

I offered for the gentleman to keep the bedside Communion Service sheet, together with the white tissue and photo card which he very kindly accepted. Inexpensive, humble items to focus on during his overwhelmingly difficult time.

He apologised to me for crying. I gently nudged his forearm and assured him that in his honesty to cry, there was no need for an apology because tears were a release button. I confirmed it was an honour to meet him ; and as I spoke, I began to stand up ready to take my leave, struggling every inch of the way to fight back my own tears. This kindly, and very courageous gentleman, accepted my offer to share with him comforting words in “The Grace” before I thanked him for receiving me. Then I thanked the staff at the Nurses Station on the ward for welcoming me and directing me to his room before departing to travel home to my own family.

As a Volunteer Chaplain, to witness the gentleman’s uplifting whilst, in return, receiving his genuine appreciation & gratitude of my visit, in all that he’s enduring, was better than gold-dust: absolutely priceless.

Chaplains are people who are happy to simply “share the cloak”. We can’t possibly put ourselves into another’s shoes. Each life is unique and different ~ everyone travels along an individual road. Yet, together we’re all stronger in sharing & caring.

I’m nothing special, merely an ordinary person with a longing: to be a presence in supporting the vital, professional work of doctors, nurses and associated colleagues.

That’s why being a Volunteer Hospital Chaplain is so precious in my own journey. It’s where I love to be: meeting people unexpectedly, wherever they are, whatever they believe, whatever their circumstances. Simply being there with them for a while.

My voluntary role comes under the directive of Rev. Dr. David Southall, author of this blog, so
if my experience stirs something in your own heart today, why not write to David, telephone him or even knock on his office door at the hospital? I do know he’d be delighted to meet you.