Chaplaincy in SJSM Village

Taking pastoral care beyond the church

“Pastoring, in general, is a wide-spectrum endeavour, albeit focused within the church. Chaplaincy, as ministry of pastoral presence, has a narrower scope and a far deeper reach — across the vast spectrum of human life that occurs outside the church and the normal life of a congregation,” explains Village Chaplain Revd Dino Thangamany. “While pastors focus on discipling their flock, chaplains are looking into what God is doing in individual lives outside and beyond the church walls.”

Here in SJSM Village, chaplaincy revolves around the nursing home and the childcare centre. Beyond our gates, we have our Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Brigade companies; elsewhere, other chaplains are at work in hospitals, prisons, (mission) schools, military/uniformed forces, and even some shopping malls overseas. And in these postmodern times, there are even chaplains of other faiths who do similar work according to their own beliefs. So while chaplaincy itself has a vast scope, each chaplain’s scope spotlights a group of specific individuals and delves into the far reaches of the human experience and psyche.

Chaplaincy isn’t just about running chapel services and providing pastoral support. It’s about helping those under one’s care to “analyse and come to terms with their circumstances”, Revd Dino says. And Christian chaplains must be respectful of all faiths, especially since the individuals under their care come from a diversity of backgrounds. They are usually theologically trained, ordained ministers who are appointed to their position by the church. They then have to undergo additional training to understand their charges’ needs; here in SJSM Village, it means studying early childhood, dementia, gerontology, palliative care, and lots more.

“School-based chaplaincy, like with the Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Brigade, has its own curriculum. The nursing home chaplain’s routine is very much like a medical officer’s routine,” Revd Dino says. “Working as part of a multidisciplinary team, we make ward rounds, taking note of residents’ emotional states, mental states, and reactions to stimuli. We then help to balance the care provided to them by explaining the ‘whys’ of their human issues to the medical team, who come from a more therapeutic perspective.

“We also bring in the spiritual aspect. We don’t talk directly about God, as in most cases this is not allowed, but we can guide and encourage the residents, children, parents, and staff under our care to think about God and faith and the impact that these have on themselves and their life trajectories.”