The 2020 Fresh Hope Chaplains Retreat was a replenishing haven for those who work tirelessly on the front line of Fresh Hope’s community ministry.

Twenty-five chaplains gathered for the annual retreat from February 24-26 at The Tops Conference Centre for three and a half days of upskilling, relational support and spiritual renewal.

“The retreat was a valuable professional development opportunity for our chaplains who, through their work with volunteers, provide spiritual and emotional support to those in aged care, hospitals, schools and corrective services across NSW,” said Fresh Hope Engage Ministry Leader Richard Reeve.

Following worship each morning, the chaplains learned about supervising and growing volunteers in their skills and spiritual journey. They also honed their own skills in the art of holding space. In response to the recent fires and floods, they shared stories of their involvement and received specialised training in understanding and managing trauma.

“I love seeing how men can be set free when they know God loves them, and I have now learned how to put a framework and processes to what we do,” said Hunter Correctional Centre full-time chaplain Richard Howarth.

“I can see how the tools I’ve been given can apply to how I engage with offenders.”

While each chaplain receives regular mentoring and supervision, connecting with their peers at the retreat plays a unique role in their support.

“A lot of our chaplains come pretty tired, and they seem lighter by the end,” said Richard Reeve. “There’s no better place than a room full of chaplains to be cared for.”

Senior Chaplain Des Meers said the retreat was “a tremendous opportunity to network, support and catch up, especially for those who are geographically isolated and alone in their facility. As a small community of chaplains coming together, we felt each other’s pain and were able to look forward in hope.”

Colleen Day has worked as a solo chaplain at Borella House, a 64-bed aged care facility in Albury, for nearly seven years. “The retreat is a place where you can speak about things and problems you might have had in your area,” she said.

“It’s about self-care, networking with others and skill development. The support you’re given has always been one of the highlights and benefits of working for this organisation. Right down at the bottom of the state we are supported, just like those right at the top.”