August 1st will mark 10 years that Reverend Gus Batley (pictured) has been the chaplain at Tamworth Base Hospital. It is a role that has always been highly valued as part of the total fabric of healing at TBH. Visiting patients is a major part of the day to day ministry, but with 250 beds you can't spend quality time with everyone. There's a need to prioritise.
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 from most of the mainline denominations who have put up their hand to spend 1 to 5 hours a week to bring comfort and companionship to anyone who might need it.
Gus sees his role as centring around two strands. "I'm here to help people find meaning in the midst of what they're going through. For those who have a faith in Jesus, there is a solid foundation to build on. For those who don't, I'm still here to care for them. I want to take the time to listen with people and share their grief. People sometimes say things like 'I'm not very religious but I'd like someone please.'
"I count it a great privilege to enter the world of a stranger when they are in pain or confusion. They trust you and you are able to help them. I've had to learn to listen. I've had to learn to slow down and stay with someone through their pain and loss.
"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'm 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. The longer I spend with people, the more they are prepared to be honest with me. There are people who look at me and say 'I've made some really stupid decisions. Is it 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.
Tamworth is privileged to have a beautiful chapel paid for by the people of the city 40 years ago. It is on the upper ground floor near the lifts in the old building and is open night and day to stop and pray or write a request in the prayer journal.
So how do you get to see the chaplain? You just ask.