Tag Archives: chaplain

The Sunday before Christmas

It was a Sunday morning – a couple of days before Christmas- and, as usual, I had a half hour Service to conduct in the Infirmary (part of my role as Healthcare Chaplain).

These (poorly attended) times of Worship for patients were held in the day room in Ward 18; a ward for elderly patients, but open to all who were hospitalised throughout the building.

It wasn’t a cheerful time that year. Helen had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, had undergone a double mastectomy, and was being treated with sessions of chemotherapy.

I was feeling less than festive, and when I opened the door to the day room, it hadn’t been prepared for the Service. Chairs were randomly placed in the room, an empty coffee cup lay on the table where the Bible was usually placed.

Being just before Christmas, as many as possible able patients had been discharged; fewer nursing staff were on duty, and were struggling to cope. And our pianist had phoned in sick with flu.

Depressing and disheartening – yep.

After ten minutes of waiting, not a single patient had turned up.

I was just about to leave, when there was a knock on the door, and this wee ordinary looking wummin came in.

“I hope I’m not too late – I was told that it was a 10.30 Service, but it’s 10.00 isn’t it? I’m so sorry. Do you want me to go back to my ward?”

“No, no! Please stay. It’s only going to be thee and me, I’m afraid. And the pianist can’t make it today. We’ll have a bash at a couple of carols, but it’ll have to be unaccompanied- oh, and I can’t hold a tune. But, listen, let me read the Christmas Scripture first, then we’ll have a wee prayer”

“OK – that sounds good.”

So we did that. Then I asked her to tell me about herself, and we had a cosy chat.

“Thank you so much”, she said, getting up to leave.

“Do you want to try ‘Away in a Manger’ before you go?”

“Oh, please”, she replied. Then added “I can play the piano a wee bit”

“Oh, that’s great; there’s a music edition of CH3 (third edition of the C of S hymn book) in this cupboard”

So she started to play this old out of tune joanna – magnificently, delicately, sensitively, with the touch of a professional……. which, it turned out, she had been, having studied music at Drama and Music College many years before.

Hymn followed hymn. Music drifted down the ward; nurses joined us – some for a few minutes only because of busyness.

We stayed for an hour! All the traditional favourites. Played beautifully.

And that old untidy Day Room was transformed into what our Celtic forebears call “a thin place”

It was a magical, mystical, merry time of joy and celebration.

Oh, although I can’t recall the lady’s name………….

……….I found out later that she was Jewish!!!!!!!!!!!

“God works in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform”

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Another of Charlie Chaplain’s Tales



As a Parish Minister, part of our remit is to visit Church members who are hospitalised.

Once, in an orthopaedic ward in one of our larger, very busy, not over compassionate staffed, Infirmaries, I came across T…..

He went on and on about how appalling the nurses were.  The junior doctors were clueless most of the time.  He had to wait for ages to get washed in the morning, there being insufficient facilities in this large “Nightingale” ward. The food was poor, and lukewarm by the time it arrived.  And so on.  Moan, moan, moan.

He said that, when he was discharged, he was going to write to the CEO of the NHS Trust to complain, criticise, comment negatively.

I told him that his letter would be passsed down the line, and he’d receive a generic reply that effectively would say nothing.

This was followed up by my saying that “You don’t have a leg to stand on”…………

……. and as I said it, immediately realised that he was in the orthopaedic ward ———————————-having a double amputation.

Do you sometimes wish that the floor would open and swallow you up?





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a Baptism


Charlie Chaplain’s Tales

Without sounding flippant, one of our mental health patients, who was extremely bright and clever, asked me, in my role of Healthcare Chaplain, to baptise him. We talked about this for several weeks, explaining the importance and the implications.

We came to the “big day” and I administered the Sacrament, after which I started to say the Aaronic Blessing – “The Lord bless you and keep you” – immediately to be interrupted by the newly baptised: “I bloody well hope so!”

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Seems so long ago


It’s about three years now since I retired from my post of Healthcare Chaplain to the Dumfries Hospitals.  Part of my remit was to teach medical students and student nurses.

I’ve just come across this photograph of “a teaching aid”.  I can’t make any sense of it – poor young men and women who had to listen to my rambles…. no wonder they looked dazed when the session ended!


Charlie Chaplain’s Tales

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The Catholic Patient

Charlie Chaplain’s Tales


On his first day, as the Catholic part-time Chaplain to the Hospital (ed: note not “part-time Catholic Chaplain” – what was he the rest of the time: part-time Baptist, part-time Anglican?) was understandably nervous.

He went into the Ward (one of those long “Nightingale Wards” with beds down each side), looking for Catholic patients.

At the end of each bed, there was a small sign.  On the first one, it simply had the letter “P” written on it.  “a Protestant,” he muttered under his breath, “maybe Pentecostalists, could be Pagan….certainly not one of mine, anyhow”

However, as he passed the bed, he glanced over and wished the patient well.

The next bed along… “P” once more….and the next….and the one after that.  “Are there no Catholics here at all?” he wondered.

Then – Joy of Joys (though he sought forgiveness from Above for rejoicing that someone was unwell and in hospital, but this patient had the letters “RC” printed on the card at the foot of his bed!

The priest sat down beside him, and they had a wonderful chat.  The chap was delightful and a good conversationalist.

When it was time to go, the Priest said, “The doctors and nurses here are wonderful, but you mustn’t neglect your spiritual health – here’s a rosary, just a cheap plastic one, but a rosary none the less. As you use it, pray to the Archangel Saint Raphael, and thank him for healing you.”

“But, Father, I’m not a member of your Church; in fact, I’m an Elder at St Blethers by the Gasworks – the Kirk in……..”  The Priest interrupted, “But…. but … it’s got RC printed on the notice at the end of your bed!”

So the patient explained – patiently…… (and you can all join in the punchline of this joke – it’s so old that I’m paying death duties on it).

“It’s for the catering department; for breakfasts: those with a “P” on their card get porridge; me – I prefer Rice Crispies”  Boom! Boom!  (yes, I know that Kelloggs spell their breakfast cereal with a “K”, but it wouldn’t be a joke then, would it?)


Glorious Archangel St. Raphael, great prince of the heavenly court, you are illustrious for your gifts of wisdom and grace. You are a guide of those who journey by land or sea or air, consoler of the afflicted, and refuge of sinners.

I beg you, assist me in all my needs and in all the sufferings of this life, as once you helped the young Tobias on his travels. Because you are the “medicine of God” I humbly pray you to heal the many infirmities of my soul and the ills that afflict my body. I especially ask of you the favor (here mention your special intention), and the great grace of purity to prepare me to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Some years ago a certain Meenister single-handedly managed to empty three churches in succession.  The Ministry and Mission Committee (as it the was)  deliberated and debated what to do with him  to put an end to the harm he was doing,

And came up with this surreal solution: they appointed him to the chaplaincy of a prison.


Speaking about prisons, the story is told about a chaplain who began the prison morning service with:—

“I am very glad to see you all here this morning!”

There was a pronounced titter amongst the prisoners and he corrected himself with—“I beg your pardon what I meant to say was, ‘I am glad to see that despite the inclemency of the weather you are all in your usual places.’ We will begin the service with the hymn:

“We are travelling home to God
In the way our fathers trod.”

Then one of the prisoners stood up and exclaimed—“Excuse me Sir but I wont have that aspersion on the character of my dear father!”

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In the Hospital Canteen

charlieCharlie Chaplain’s Tales



The Hospital Chaplain had been asked by the Catering Manager to check out the problems being experienced by servers, cooks and staff in the Dining Room.

He suggested that the workers serving in the Canteen should be more cheerful when they served the meals to the staff coming down the line. A smile and a cheerful comment, a willingness to serve them will reap great benefits he told them.

After his pep talk the Catering Manager and the Chaplain stood back and watched the food being served.

A new junior doctor aboard walked down the line but he didn’t like anything he saw so he just carried his tray  till he got to the desert section. He picked up a saucer containing a large piece of chocolate cake.

The server looked at him, “Is that all you’re going eat?” he asked.

The young doctor said, “Yeah, the rest of it don’t look too appetizing.”

The server smiled and said, “Well, in that case would you like two pieces of cake?”

The Chaplain smiled and hit the Catering Manager in the ribs, “I told you my talk did them some good.”

The doctor said, “Thanks, I’d appreciate it.”

The cook leaned over and cut the piece of cake on the tray in half.

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In the Maternity Unit


Charlie Chaplain’s Tales



A Hospital Chaplain was doing his rounds and when He stopped into the maternity Ward waiting room to talk to the three men that were waiting for the news of the arrival of their new born. As the Chaplain talked to the first fella he was about to ask Him what kind of work he does? About that time a nurse comes in and tells him he is the proud Father of Twins. He jumps up all happy as a bear in a honey tree, and says “what a coincidence, my wife gave birth to twins and I play baseball for the Minnesota twins. A minute later another nurse comes in and says to the second fella, “MR. Brown, you are the proud Father of triplets”. He says, “Now that is a coincidence because I work for the 3M Company”. Now the third guy gets all nervous and sweaty and asks the nurse “is there some place I could lay down”? The Nurse says, “Are you not feeling well”? He answers “No, I am feeling OK, Just a little scared because I work for the 7UP Company”.

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The Gairdner

charlieCharlie Chaplain’s Tales
When I first started my full- time  healthcare chaplaincy post some fourteen years ago, I visited as many of the clients and residents at our then mental-health care facility.
“Hello, I’m Sandy, the new chaplain” I would introduce myself.
On one occasion, the response was “I’m John and I’m a gardener” (with a broad Galloway accent – “gairdner”)
He was interrupted by a fellow female client: “I’m X…. and I’m awff ma heid”
“Wheesht, wumin”, interposed old John, “Ye dinnae ken whit ye’re talking aboot!”
He monopolised the rest of the conversation.
“Ah ken you meenisters; Ah usetae dae gairdenin’ work fur some o’ them at their big posh manses”
“Aye,” he continued, “ye sit oan yer erses a’ afternoon readin’ the ‘Scotsman’ and drinkin’ wheesky”
I hadn’t the heart to contradict him.  It was usually a G & T and the “Herald” for me

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A load of B*ll*cks

Charlie Chaplain’s Tales

I once came across a patient in the Infirmary who was obviously in great discomfort and pain.

He said that he had been in a dreadful accident at work and that his “scrotum” was badly crushed.

Continuing, he told me that the surgeons had performed a delicate and intricate operation. Amazingly, they were able to piece together the crushed remnants of his scrotum and wrap wire around it to hold it in place.

The doctors were pleased with the operation and had said , with time, he should recover completely.”

I wished him well but couldn’t help wincing at the terrible ordeal that he had undergone……  so I said to one of the Staff Nurses on my way out of the Ward, “That poor guy, getting his testicles crushed like that”


“Yeh, his scrotum I mean”

“Scrotum?  He’s in with a crushed sternum!”


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July 11, 2013 · 18:54