Photo: Peter Wakeley, Fresh Hope Chaplain, outside Wyong Hospital on the Central Coast.

Hospitals continue to be the front line of the coronavirus crisis, even as the number of new cases stabilises. Peter Wakeley, Fresh Hope chaplain for the past 10 years at Wyong Hospital on the Central Coast, is seeking to be Jesus’ loving presence in this challenging environment.

While he has not yet been called on to provide pastoral care to COVID-19 patients, there is abundant need to be present to others in the midst of this crisis.

“COVID-19 has brought significant and, of course, appropriate change to some practices across the hospital, and adjusting to this means some staff need to talk about these changes and the loss or sadness that comes with it,” said Peter.

“Visiting hours and numbers of visitors have been restricted for patients and, while most patients and families understand, there is also sadness there, as well as a higher level of anxiety for some.

“One current consequence of COVID-19 is that our pastoral care capacity has been significantly reduced with volunteer pastoral carers and some paid pastoral care staff not allowed to visit. Therefore, I am getting the word out about pastoral care by distributing flyers to staff and patients, offering a listening ear and care through this difficult time.”

Dealing with grief is a significant part of Peter’s ministry in this season. In addition to the needs associated with COVID-19, there remain many end-of-life or palliative care referrals that Peter responds to, seeking to be a calm and supportive presence with patients and their families.

“I keep trusting in God as my rock and opening myself to the peace Jesus offers, as well as the comfort and strength of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “I’m doing my best to make sure I’m feeding my soul with appropriate encouragement so that I can be that non-anxious, calm person offering hope and comfort both in the ward and with staff.

“I’ve found that an attitude of prayer – especially as I’m walking between wards in the hospital – and connecting with our Fresh Hope chaplains over Zoom has been really helpful. As well, intentionally spending time connecting with family online, taking in the beauty of creation while walking, journaling, listening to worship music and healthy podcasts, having mentoring and watching good movies are some ways I’m looking after my head and heart.”

By Emily Ferguson