Friendship as Ministry

How chaplains leverage the power of presence

Befriending is the backbone of chaplaincy. Having the mindset that one is here to befriend, and not solve problems, totally changes one’s perspective, awareness, and approach. “Our ministry of presence — being there — is the most important thing,” says Village Chaplain Revd Dino Thangamany. “Steady, constant presence and support builds trust and confidence, and through this we help individuals regain their independence. This may be in small ways, like just voicing their preferences and being heard, but it makes a difference.

“A lot of well-meaning people have this idea that they are coming in to help others in need by offering what they can — but chaplaincy is not about fitting volunteers’ or servers’ or staff’s interests, gifts, and resources into the picture. It’s about finding out the client’s needs and matching them empathetically. There’s no clear job description or scope to journeying with people with genuine compassion and patience, and emotionally ‘getting one’s hands dirty’.”

Friendships also need to be cultivated within chaplaincy teams as well as within the multidisciplinary teams they work with, because they all need to work together to provide balanced care to their charges. Being able to facilitate a broader, more nuanced view of things helps alleviate frustrations among the caregivers, too. It’s a lot of work, and it requires a lot of sacrifice, but ask any of our chaplaincy staff and they’ll tell you that it’s worth it. 

“Our greatest joy is in seeing someone under our care come to Christ,” Revd Dino says. “I’m very glad to report that four baptisms have already resulted from our ministry here.”