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Tim Harland jokes and says he has his “affiliation for falling off motorcycles” to thank for his commissioning as Hospital Chaplain next week. In reality though, the role seems tailor made for this man of deep faith.
As a young man Tim felt drawn to chaplaincy. But as so often happens, life had other plans for him. He went to university and enrolled in an engineering degree and ultimately became a qualified tool maker. As the years unfolded he married, raised a family and has been a regular at services at Taranaki Cathedral Church of St Mary.
In 1988 a severe motorcycle accident sent him to intensive care for three and a half weeks.
“My love for the church and my heart for Christ meant I found it really distressing that I couldn’t get to services. [Hospital Chaplain at the time] Peter Mitchell was an incredible support to me and my family during this very hard time.”
Then in 2013 another motorcycle accident (he wasn’t kidding about that affiliation for falling off bikes!) saw him back in hospital and once again grateful for the spiritual guidance and support of the hospital chaplain.
After thoughtful contemplation, Tim decided it was time for a change in direction. He earned a social work degree – opting to do one of his key placements at Taranaki Base Hospital as part of its chaplaincy team.
After completing his degree and going on to work in community services, Tim continued to volunteer as a hospital chaplain every Tuesday and Thursday.
Tim says the work can be difficult but is essential and rewarding. There is one full time chaplain, two part timers (including Tim) and about 20 volunteers. They aim to visit every single person who is admitted to hospital (although there are sometimes practical considerations that make this impossible).
The hospital chaplain’s role is a varied one. They contribute to the health and welfare of patients, family members and staff by providing pastoral and spiritual care. There is an ecumenical service every Sunday in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd at the hospital. During the week Tim and other chaplains pray with and offer companionship to the sick and injured, and their families.
“Sometimes it’s just about being there, not needing to say anything. Others are keen to pray or share the gospel. And of course some people don’t want a bar of you — and that’s okay too. It’s about meeting people where they are,” says Tim.
Tim says he enjoys being able to support the mental and spiritual wellness of the patients – regardless of their faith. He enjoys building relationships with patients with ongoing care needs or health issues. Because most patients come and go so quickly, Tim says it can be difficult to see the impact of his work, but his first-hand experience as a patient means he knows just how valuable hospital chaplains are to people when they are in such a vulnerable position.
We wish Tim all the very best for this next chapter of his life. If you would like to attend his commissioning next Wednesday (April 15) at 5.30pm please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org