A Time of Refreshing and Togetherness: Chaplains Retreat 2024

23 Feb 2024

By Amy Galliford


In late January, the churches of Christ chaplains gathered for a time of both rest and preparation in their annual chaplain’s retreat. Bruce Tindale, who led the retreat this year as the new churches of Christ Chaplaincy Ministry Team Leader, explains,

 “Chaplains need time to renew their knowledge, time to rest deeply, time to be listened to, to be cared for, to be fed chocolate, and they need some good deep laughter.”

The week opened with a Tuesday afternoon allocated to catch-ups and craft, with Bruce’s wife, Tanya, leading the group through the process of creating a clay labyrinth. Each individual made their own mini-maze, small enough to be held in the hands but large enough for the holder to trace her fingers through the grooves as an alternative to a labyrinth prayer walk.

Lee Beamish, a prison chaplain in regional NSW, recalls, “I’m not a creative person in that way… I think I surprised myself,” and says he now uses the labyrinth in his times with God.

With large portions of time left open to simply unwind, the following days also consisted of professional development. Dr Mark Layson, a former police officer and firefighter, spoke on his PhD subject of moral injury, which several chaplains emphasise as crucial to their work. Peter Carblis spoke on the Apostle’s Creed, sharing what the others described as his “wealth of wisdom” with the group.

This year’s retreat came with some disruption, with one key member absent due to a death in the family and two members called away to respond to a crisis with chaplaincy support. Despite this, the group found itself unified and strengthened, Andy Chung recounting,

“It was a wonderful opportunity to be a team in the face of some of the curveballs sent to us.”

Given the acute pressures and heavy demands of chaplaincy, retreat from the world to a place of mutual support, understanding and togetherness is essential for chaplains across all industries.

“Being with each other gives us life to keep going – it’s much easier to do our role when we know there are others doing similar things,” says Zelpha Bevan, Nowra-based aged care chaplain.

Peter Wakeley, a long serving hospital chaplain, similarly shares, “I go in looking to nurture others and to receive the nurturing of others.”

With the group having carved out time especially to farewell and honour him for his sixteen-year chaplaincy service, Peter’s gratitude is unmissable. He emphasises joyfully, “Chaplaincy is such a privilege.”


Read more stories from churches of Christ in NSW & ACT HERE