The NHS chaplaincy team at Treliske has emphasized how they are there to support everyone involved in the life of the hospital, religious or not.

Based primarily out of the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Treliske in Truro – but also serving hospitals across west Cornwall – Revd Mark Richards leads the chaplaincy team for Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust.

Mark is himself a Methodist, and his team includes three Anglican chaplains, Revd Dom Whitting, Revd Angela Brown and Revd Keiren Marwood.

Those roles have of course changed over the years, but they continue to hold true to the core principles of chaplaincy.

“Traditionally we’ve been seen as specialist religious providers, but of course chaplaincy is much wider than that aspect of spiritual provision,” Keiren says.

“Historically, the meaning of the word ‘chaplain’ was to share one’s cloak with another,” Mark explains. “Although I’ve never had the opportunity to share my cloak, we do share the gift of time with our patients, their families and our colleagues, meeting them at their moments of deepest need, providing a listening ear, care, kindness and support in ways which are appropriate to their circumstances. They may be religious or not.

“We come alongside people, are present with them, being there in the deepest and fullest sense of what that phrase really means. Chaplaincy is having the courage to be fully present in the moment, knowing that at some point you may have no words to say, but remaining there still.”

This is a point with which Dom agrees: “It’s not about having all the answers. It’s about being able to hold that space of listening, and it’s often about not having any words to say. You have to be comfortable with that silence, that awkwardness, with having the confidence to know that you’re there, and that’s all that’s needed at that time.”

His colleague Angela adds: “We accompany patients on their journey, whether that ends in hospital or in seeing them go home. And the other thing is that we’re a non-medical face. Patients have a lot of medical conversations – rightly so, of course they need those – but we can give them something different.”

It's clear that all four find their roles – their vocations – both challenging and hugely rewarding.

“I think I’ve always seen chaplaincy and my role as a kind of as-you-go spirituality,” says Angela. “You never know when you arrive in the morning who you’ll find yourself with.

"That makes me feel very connected to the spirit of Christ in myself and to the presence of Christ in each situation. The deepening of my trust and faith every day feeds me and my relationship with God. You get some beautiful moments with patients.

"I often feel that I’m receiving from the patients – it’s not about me giving – it’s more mutual than that. There are often of course some very difficult situations, but it’s about trusting that God is here.”


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Of course, that isn’t to underestimate the very real stresses of the work.

“The role of a chaplain is demanding, it’s draining on all levels,” Mark says. “We get to witness, to hear and to hold on a regular basis that which you probably wouldn’t see, hear or hold in other areas of ministry.”

They can also be contacted by parishes and churches to provide support for their parishioners and members of their congregations who are in hospital.