Quietly lending an ear, or saving a life

Lending an ear to someone troubled, or giving a reason to live to someone thinking of taking his life, it’s all in a days work for the chaplains in town. Canon BRIAN JEFFRIES writes about people in Alice Springs who perform great deeds without fanfare.

 

High risk events are a part of the social fabric of Alice Springs, like the Red Centre NATS, the Finke Desert Race and the Masters Games.

 

All have chaplains who support the competitors, the spectators and the officials.

 

Chaplains are members of Christian churches, sometimes an ordained minister, who provides pastoral care that sometimes leads to professional and confidential counselling in a spiritual framework.

 

While chaplains themselves are Christians, they do not impose their own views on those they contact, and they respect all people regardless of their spiritual or religious views.

 

The Masters Games organisers in 2016 and 2018 were willing to encourage and support chaplaincy at their events over one week.

 

Both chaplains were from local churches, the Salvation Army and Desert Life Church.

 

Chaplains have supported the annual Finke Desert Race for the last three years.

 

This year, with over 700 competitors, 53 required medical treatment, some admitted to the hospital.

 

Almost half of the people visited by chaplains did not complete the Finke due to accidents, including spectators who required treatment.

 

A chaplain was placed at the Start-Finish line and second chaplain at Finke.

 

Chaplains were also invited in 2018 to the Alice Springs Motorcycle Club to speak to the younger members of the club who were deeply affected by the accidental death of 2017 Finke Champion, Daymon Stokie, in early 2018 at the Deep Well Enduro.

 

Sports Chaplaincy Australia is an organisation that encourages a non-denominational Christian network of people who seek to bring the grace of Jesus Christ to sport in Australia by identifying, training, appointing and guiding dedicated men and women into chaplaincy roles within sports.

 

Roger Johnson, Chaplain to the SA Redback cricket team, is the SA/NT coordinator and encourages people to volunteer as chaplains to sporting fixtures, such as AFL, NRL, netball and basketball.

 

Trained sports chaplains can provide a neutral, confidential and listening ear to those who wish to share pressures and concerns faced from sport, family and other life circumstances.

 

Pastoral care happens in an ad hoc, informal way at training and social events, over the telephone, in hospital, or more formally by appointments.

 

Chaplains provide particular care during the difficult times – the loss of a family member, accident or death of a player, relationship breakdown, assistance for people dealing with drugs, depression and anger.

 

Fortunately, the Red Centre NATS in 2018, the Master’s Games in 2018 and the Finke Desert Race in 2019 were all successfully managed by their organisers and no tragic deaths occurred.

 

In the area of national disaster, twelve Christian ministers in Alice Springs completed emergency response chaplaincy training in 2017 and 2018.

 

These men and women are now equipped to be an integral part of a pastoral care team in a crisis centre should a state or national emergency be declared.

 

All chaplains were on standby in March during Cyclone Trevor should it have escalated and placed demands on Alice Springs and Tennant Creek.

 

Training for chaplains offered in Alice Springs since 2015 is called clinical pastoral education or CPE.

 

Sixteen ministers learned and developed advanced pastoral skills, such as becoming intentional listeners, an important skill in confidential counselling.

 

CPE can be a pre-requisite, but is not essential, to become a prison, school, police fire and emergency service (PFES) chaplain or a hospital chaplain.

 

The prison chaplain is Pastor Geoff Crabtree who has been providing pastoral care to men, women and youth in the Alice Springs prison and youth correctional centre for 19 years.

 

The new PFES chaplain is Revrend Rob Weeks.

 

Rob serves the Southern and Barkly Region with previous experience as a Reserve Defence Force chaplain and as a school chaplain.

 

Rob supports front-line responders to emergencies and had the honour of leading the PFES Service of Remembrance.

 

Chaplaincy to the RSL has been a large part of public services of remembrance such as Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and Vietnam Veteran’s Day.

 

After a gap of 18 months the newly appointed hospital chaplain is Rev’d Jenni Weekes who is to be commissioned this Sunday at the Church of the Ascension by Sue Korner, Alice Springs Hospital CEO with Ms Larissa Ellis, Director of Allied Health, Hearing and Aged Care.

 

Dale Wakefield MLA, who recognises and encourages hospital chaplaincy, will speak in support of Jenni’s new appointment.

 

Anglicare, a large NGO in Central Australia, has me as staff chaplain since 2014.

 

However, chaplaincy can occur incidentally. Examples in Alice Springs are the volunteers who bus families to the prison and who coordinate the visitors centre there.

 

Chaplaincy is the teams of volunteers who provided regular services to men and women in the the Alice Springs prison.

 

It is the Baptist, Catholic, Uniting and Anglican church ministers who support the Yulara and Uluru community of workers and tourists.

 

Chaplains are those who regularly visit Hetty Perkins or Flynn Lodge, Old Timer’s Village.

 

Chaplains are women meeting women and children in the women’s shelter.

 

Chaplaincy is not expecting people to attend a church on a Sunday morning rather it is connecting with ordinary people, just where they are and establishing supportive, caring relationships as modelled by Jesus Christ.

 

PHOTO: Induction last year of Rev’d Rob Weekes as the new Police Fire and Emergency Services chaplain (Southern Command). L to R: Commander Brad Currie, Rev’d Rob Weekes, Assistant Commissioner Michael White.

 

[The author, Rev’d Canon Brian Jeffries, is the Rector of the Alice Springs Anglican Parish and Chaplain to Anglicare NT.]

 

 

 

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One Comment (starting with the most recent)

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  1. James
    Posted June 20, 2019 at 9:59 am

    Very interesting story about a group of people who obviously render a very important service to Alice Springs and environs.
    Supporting people in times of trauma is so necessary and obviously these people render this service free. This is the type of story that needs to be widely acknowledged.
    Well done Canon Jeffries.

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