24 Hours: Ian MacLeod

00:07, Sep 28 2010
Ian MacLeod
Healthy Faith: Hospital and PSS chaplain Ian MacLeod

Ian MacLeod is a chaplain for the South Canterbury District Health Board and Presbyterian Support Services South Canterbury, through the Interchurch Council for Hospital Chaplains.

I do administration work from 8am to about 9, 9.15am normally. This morning I came into the hospital chaplain's office to do that, but at the moment, if I've got to print something out or scan something I'll do that from home.

Then from about 9.15am I'm available to the wards here until 12. I get a list supplied by the hospital that shows me who would like a visit from the chaplain. Being an inter-denominational chaplain I have the freedom to visit all people, so as I'm talking to people in the rooms, I can get involved in discussions with others.

It's quite different to parish visiting, because in a parish, you can only visit your parishioners, but here I can visit people from all denominations, and even people with no faith at all.

I sometimes get called to visit a person in the hospital or it might be family or staff. And I get called occasionally to bless a room where someone has died.

People might want prayer, a Bible reading, comfort, someone to talk to. I'll give communion to those who have requested it. If I know that someone does have a church connection, I'll usually ask them if they would like me to contact their minister.


In those three hours, I could see up to 20 people. But we've just been reminded that we're not here for the numbers, we are here to offer support and comfort to people and families. So sometimes I can spend much longer with one person.

I visit at Talbot Park too, often in the afternoon, and take a service there once a month.

On a Monday I'll go to Wallingford Home in Temuka in the morning. I'll go to The Croft about 10, 10.15am and pick up my list of people who have come in or gone out of the homes, and then head out and visit out there.

Once a month, on a Thursday morning, I'm at a service at The Croft, and I have a service at Margaret Wilson Home once a month on a Wednesday afternoon.

Those are the two PSS homes I visit more regularly, that's normally in the afternoon. I visit people in the lounges, in their rooms. I also involve myself when I can in the activities of the folk in the homes. I've even sat in on the ladies doing their fingernails, I listen to some of the speakers, or I'll go to the concerts when I can.

People in the hospital say to me, "which parish do you belong to?"

I say, "you're part of my parish", and I explain that this is my only job, the chaplaincy at the hospital and Presbyterian Support, and everyone in those facilities has access to me.

People in the hospital can be quite transient; I can form a longer-term relationship with people in the homes. But I'm also available to staff and the families of patients and residents.

Sometimes when I'm at the hospital I'll get called to see someone at a home, or if I'm at a home, I can get called to the hospital. I'm occasionally called out at night, usually because someone is near death. And last night I was called back because someone had died and I wasn't there at the time, and the staff wanted me to bless the room.

Normally, if I'm at the hospital in the morning I'll have morning tea with the orderlies upstairs, or I'll have a cup of tea at The Croft on the way to Wallingford. Afternoon tea, I'll often be somewhere around the PSS homes, and I'll generally get a cup of tea there.

I occasionally visit Family Works, which is part of PSS in North Street, they run a lot of programmes in the community, so I try to get there to have some time with the staff there. The other day I was there for a farewell.

I have weekends off, although at the moment, I have taken services for Chaplaincy Week, and I'll take part in one tomorrow at St David's.

I still go to Methodist synod, because I'm a Methodist minister – that's the district meeting, from north of Christchurch to Oamaru – about four times a year, and there's Presbytery once a month – that's the South Canterbury area. I get to that as often as I can.

We have two chaplaincy assistants. Mavis Drake visits at Talbot Park on a Wednesday afternoon, and Bruce Woodnorth visits at AT&R (the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation unit) on a Friday morning.

All chaplains have to be ministers, and we've got 12 or 13 ministers locally who are on-call chaplains for the weekends, or if I'm on leave.

They'll come into the hospital if there has been a request for a chaplain. Although, interestingly, the very first hospital chaplain was in Dunedin Hospital, and was a layperson.

To become a chaplain, you have to have done at least one clinical pastoral education course, and need to do two before you can be accredited as a healthcare chaplain.

This is my first chaplaincy appointment. Immediately before this I was in the Methodist parish in Rangiora.

Gladys and I met in Auckland and we got married in my last year at college. I had to get the church's permission – not her father's – to get married. We were in Auckland for a year, and then my first parish was Bluff.

The highs of the job? When I explain I'm an ecumenical chaplain, I say to people I'd never have met people like them if I was in a parish, if they weren't Methodists, and some of the people I meet aren't church people at all.

There's the gratitude that I receive from people who say that I was a help to them at a significant time.

The lows? There aren't a great number of them. It might be a death, especially if I have known that person a long time.

If you're in a parish, you do hospital and home visits as part of a broader visiting programme – whereas with this role, that's what you're doing all the time.

I've done the occasional funeral and wedding.

I've held a funeral for a baby in the hospital chapel, and a wedding here as well. We can also have services here for people who are involved in hospital work; I've officiated at a service for two classes of nurses from the 1950s who held a reunion, and we've recently had the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the opening of the chapel.

We don't have regular Sunday services in the chapel. If people are well enough to attend a church service, they'll usually go home from hospital before the weekend.

But people can come into the chapel when they want to. When I speak at orientation for new staff and give them an idea of what the chaplain does, I always say to people that they are welcome to use the chapel.

There's a piano in there, and one of the staff sometimes comes in and plays that. And people have told me that they have come down and just sat in the chapel for a while, just to have some quiet time.

At Christmas, I take part in the carol-singing around the wards here and at Talbot Park.

When I get home I like to sit down and relax, and Gladys and I catch up. With Chaplaincy Week I've had services to prepare for, and they take some time.

We go to Christchurch as often as we can, we've got two children, both living there, and our daughter and son-in-law have two lovely children, so we go up to see them.

There's also work to do around the house, and things like that. Gladys has relations in this area, so sometimes we'll visit them, or they'll come to us.

The Timaru Herald