Reverend Gus Batley is the chaplain to Tamworth Hospital. His role is to oversee pastoral care, though he is often invited to visit patients at Tamara.
Each morning, Gus will receive a list of the entire patient population categorised according to religion. He will scan it and look for familiar names. Some he will refer to their own minister or to the visiting Catholic Chaplain.
There is also a team of trained hospital visitors, 14 volunteers from most of the mainline denominations who have put up their hand to spend one to five hours a week to bring comfort and companionship to anyone who might appreciate it.
A chaplain also looks after the welfare of families. Many a relative is in need of somebody to walk the lonely journey with them as they struggle to make sense of it all. Someone with the time to care and the expertise to arrange for further help. He currently conducts 20 funerals a year.
Gus is quick to acknowledge the support of staff.
“After a few years, you become more visible. Staff recognise you and trust you. It’s lovely when staff approach me and say, ‘While you’re here, there’s someone in this bed that I think you should see.’”
Tamworth Hospital is privileged to have a beautiful chapel paid for by the people of the city.
There is an informal service every Wednesday at 11am and the new entries in the prayer journal are prayed through.
Throughout the year, there are musicians from the churches who sing gospel songs for the patients. The big highlight is the second Monday in December when the corridors come alive with carol singers from the churches of Tamworth.
But it doesn’t end there. If you are ever a patient at Tamworth Hospital, you can expect to find a Bible in your top drawer, courtesy of Tamworth Gideons.
This week Gus Batley reflects on six and a half years of chaplaincy.
“What a privilege it is to enter the world of a stranger when they are in pain or uncertain. They trust you and you are able to help them,” Reverend Batley said.
“Australians are big on moving on. We say, ‘Get over it.’ But we don’t. There is no timetable for getting over it and I am in no mind to try and push them along.
“God wants to minister to the person you are, not the person you are pretending to be. Hospital is a place where we can be real.
“There are people who look at me and say, ‘I’ve made some really stupid decisions. Is it still possible to get right with God?”
“I say, ‘Absolutely. Can we talk about that?’ And they give me permission and together we build a bridge and Jesus walks across.”