As I write this piece for Taney News, I am travelling to Cork on the train for my weekly course on Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). This is a course that is required by the HSE in order to operate as a chaplain within the Healthcare system. It is a course that is very intensive and self-reflective, and it also keeps me away from the parish from Monday afternoon to Friday morning each week up to the beginning of May. It is hard to comprehend that I will be missing from the parish during the season of Lent but although absent in body, I will be with you in spirit.
This time last year, we were in the grip of some very severe weather with snow up to our knees. As I write this article, I am immediately brought back to the eerie silence that we experienced as the snow-covered roads and pavements muffled the sound of traffic and voices. In many ways, it was a time for all of us to sit back and relax as the enforced lock down prevented people from going out. How things can change, or can they?
As I look out the window of the train as it speeds through the country, the snow and sleet is falling again!!! This current cold snap is in complete contrast to the rather pleasant temperatures we experienced over the previous number of weeks in February. As the train slows down before stopping at a station, I am looking out at the hundreds of daffodils, that despite the harsh weather, are beginning to open and cover the ground in a carpet of yellow. It reminds me that we are once again in the season of Lent and approaching the liturgical season of Easter. As I gaze out the window at the gradually evolving carpet of yellow, I am constantly in wonder how nature creates and recreates.
The reading from Ecclesiastes comes to mind - ‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…’. This reading could be read at a funeral. The role of a chaplain is sadly at times being present with patients and parishioners who are coming to the end of their earthly life, but as Christians we are reminded that we are an Easter people and we must look to the Cross for hope, comfort and reassurance. The loss of a loved one is a crushing blow. It can stop us in our tracks no matter what age, and it will undoubtedly cause us physical pain. As clergy and chaplains, we are aware that we cannot fix your pain, but we can journey with you as you endeavour to come to terms with your loss. Sometimes a listening ear is all you need; it is not always about religion. Chaplains are called on to accompany people, and it is the person who leads the direction of the conversation. What I have discovered in my time to date is that chaplaincy often goes beyond words. I am acutely aware at times there are no words to be spoken. It is often silence and presence that work best for all concerned.
As Christians we have hope; and it is that hope that carries us through the darker days in life. As we approach Easter, I am immediately brought back to last year’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the land where Jesus’ ministry began. One of the more memorable places for me was Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified. What a moving, devout and holy place to be! From there, we went to the site of the tomb, the empty tomb and the glorious news that Christ conquered death and that as Christians we too will conquer death on the final day of his return.
From Church Lodge, may I wish you every blessing and comfort as we celebrate the risen Christ, the Christ that gives us hope even in our despair.
Rev. Nigel Pierpoint Curate-Assistant