Oct 2012 – An Update

Those “in the know” keep telling us that green shoots are starting to appear in the economy.

For many of us, the shoots, if visible at all, are too frail to have more than a tentative grip on existence. It is therefore with great gratitude that the Trust thanks all those who have so generously contributed to keep the chaplaincy service at Wellington Hospital in existence.

Its open availability to everyone who is part of the life of the hospital – all staff, all patients, all whanau and friends- underscores the part it plays as an essential part of the hospital team, offering support and care in times of critical uncertainty and vulnerability.

Like many other aspects of systems we had (almost) taken for granted, the chaplaincy service is feeling the pinch of the spill-over from the global situation and the Christchurch disaster.

We are all, in one way or another, being affected financially by the increase in insurance premiums and the outcome of the country-wide revaluation of public buildings previously considered earthquake-safe. Many of these decisions, distressing as they are, have wider, more profound ramifications.

For the Trust, a close-to-home case in point is the story of the Porirua chapel, attached to the Mental Health and Forensic Unit. The chaplains, the Revd Kath MacLean and the Revd Noel Tiano were astonished (they thought, at first, it was a joke) very recently to be ordered immediately (that very afternoon, in fact) to evacuate the chapel and the small adjacent complex of office, meeting room and kitchen. The instruction, arising from an adverse expert report on the structure’s earthquake capability, came without warning and, considering the immediate past history of the building, with a disconcerting urgency.

The Unit provides for many people who come from a great distance, often for long-term treatment and who consequently may receive only infrequent visits from whanau and friends.

For them the chapel offers not only an outpost of tranquillity, safety and spiritual help, where cultural art works and familiar colour and shapes convey a special reassurance; it is in constant use, informally and for planned occasions. It is a still point in a disturbing, turning world. For the professional staff of the Unit, it is seen as a healing space in its own right.

Apart from the logistics of the situation: the unsatisfactory space suddenly found for Sunday and other services and the inconvenient storage space for equipment and furniture, the chaplains have been struggling with an extraordinary load.

As Kath and Noel continue their normal service to this vulnerable group, in addition, they in themselves have picked up the part previously played by the physical building – its strength and familiarity and healing.

Fortunately, the original expert assessment has been modified to the point where normality has been restored, with the proviso, however, that the building must be “stickered”. Because essential bracing work (cost, as yet unknown), can’t happen overnight, everyone using the chapel complex must sign a form spelling out their understanding of the risks should an earthquake occur.

The Trust was set up to ensure the continuity and sustainability of chaplaincy services in Wellington Hospitals. Originally, this was seen to be (and remains) an urgent financial requirement; now, however, concepts of “continuity and sustainability” have taken on an added dimension.

Like everyone else in these times, we must take a deep breath to meet in the best way we can, whatever unforeseen needs present themselves.

And so we will, with your help.