Friday, 01 March 2019

Disaster-ready Chaplains

The Assembly’s National Disaster Recovery Officer Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson has an extraordinarily busy ministry.

Wherever chaplains are on hand to comfort those in need, Stephen’s presence is rarely far away.

In recent months, fires in Victoria and Tasmania, floods around Townsville, and drought and heatwave conditions across the country have kept the impact of disaster in hearts and minds. Care and support networks have been active supporting people through these crises.

As Summer formally comes to a close, Stephen just finished managing a deployment of chaplains around Tabulam in northern NSW, where 22 homes were destroyed by fire.

There’s no rest though, and this week Stephen has been delivering training to prospective disaster recovery chaplains at Port Stephens in the NSW Hunter region.

The area was affected by a number of fire emergencies last year, and there was a lack of available disaster-trained ministers in the local churches. This meant that the state chaplaincy network, coordinated by Stephen, were stretched supplying chaplains to evacuation centres. Many were also unsure how best to contribute to the care of displaced people.

The training will help cover what Stephen calls a ‘gap on the map’ and strengthen local chaplaincy.

In recent years the growing emphasis on disaster-ready and resilient communities has seen Stephen’s expertise drawn on in most states and territories of Australia and Pacific Island nations like Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga, where he’s worked with church partners and UnitingWorld.

Amid the busyness Stephen’s keen to remind Uniting Church members of the Assembly’s National Disaster Relief Fund.

“It’s an ongoing pool of funds which is open to people to both donate to and to draw upon for disaster relief projects.”

“The Fund is always open to ensure people are cared for during and beyond crises,” explains Stephen.

Always open – a bit like Stephen’s ministry, where another disaster is just around the corner.

Keep your ear out for Stephen on ABC Radio National on Sunday 10 March, as he’s talking about his ministry on the ABC’s Soul Search program.