Hospital chaplain describes ministry on NHS frontline
From sharing the joy of a birth or a recovery to being alongside those suffering or at the end of their lives, the vital work of hospital chaplaincy is vividly described in a new book.
In The Midst Of Life is a series of stories and reflections on ministry in the NHS by the Revd Michael Marsden, who has served as a hospital chaplain in Wales for three decades.
It is described by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, as “moving, compelling and humane”.
Michael describes his encounters with patients and their families and also the hospital staff – the doctors, nurses, the cleaners and house-keepers. From his years of ward rounds and running the hospital chapel, he offers advice on how to visit sick people and how to be aware of their fears and worries. He writes candidly about when it is appropriate for him to offer pastoral ministry – simply ‘being alongside’ someone – or sacramental ministry – celebrating Holy Communion with them. Underpinning all his ministry is prayer – praying with people of all faiths for none and also praying for those whose names have been added to the chapel prayer board. As such each chapter of the book begins with a passage of scripture and ends with a prayer, inviting the reader to reflect. The final chapter is devoted to how Michael’s ministry has been affected by the COVID pandemic
The title of the book comes from the first line of an ancient Gregorian chant often used as part of the funeral service: “In the midst of life, we are in death”.
Michael, who currently works at the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, says, “Sickness is no respecter of time, person or place – it involves all of us at some point in our lives. Writing about the unavoidable phenomena we call death is never easy and I hope some of the stories will make people laugh as well as weep, and in some small way I hope the book encourages people to do both.”
In his foreword to the book, Dr Rowan Williams, says, “One thing we are all going to remember from the immense strains and challenges of the pandemic is the new appreciation of the business like, day-to-day heroism of health care professionals…. Health care chaplains are a vital part of this steady and courageous witness and in this moving, compelling and humane book Michael provides some deep insights into their work….I can’t think of another book that so beautifully sums up the vocation of a hospital chaplain, with a wealth of invaluable quotation and reflection.….Michael writes with wit and clarity and compassion, not simply about sickness and health but about the amazing grace of being human and the joy of witnessing to this.”
- In The Midst Of Life by Michael Marsden is available on Amazon, price £7.99