Uniting Chaplains continue ministries during uncertain times
On 9 September, three Uniting Chaplains, Lita Mendigorin, Mike Ansky, and Arun Naicker, were inducted via a service held on Zoom. Insights spoke to them about this unusual ceremony method and their ministries.
Parramatta-Nepean Presbytery’s Rev. Dr Rob McFarlane presided. He told Insights that COVID-19 had meant the church now needs, “to invent everything as we go along.”
“We have already had an induction and ordination in Parramatta Nepean Presbytery under COVID-safe conditions. However, each of those services was conducted with a small group present in the worship space, and Zoomed to a wider congregation,” he said.
“This commissioning was the first time that we have attempted a similar service entirely in a virtual space, with none of the participants gathered in a physical space. For some that would have felt alienating; for others this allowed them to participate when they would not have been able to otherwise.”
“The blessing was that many, many more people were able to take part in the service. For some, this simply meant being able to attend in the middle of a busy day. For others, this was more profound, as they could not have travelled the distance from outside Sydney. For me, this meant that approaching the service was pretty stressful, however, ended up being extremely fulfilling to know that we had together created a meaningful and inclusive event.”
The three Uniting pastors were Lita Mendigorin, Mike Ansky, and Arun Naicker. These pastors work in ministries to hospitals and aged care, offering a wide range of pastoral care services to those who need them the most.
“Arun, Mike ,and Lita are all present in communities and for individuals in specific situations of need, being Christ’s presence, representing the whole church,” Rev. McFarlane said.
“Their work is inter-disciplinary with other staff, as well as ecumenical and increasingly interfaith. This is a highly challenging ministry; pray for these three servants and for all chaplains.”
Lita Mendigorin is a Hospital Chaplain at Westmead Hospital, working with a team of permanent Chaplains and supported by volunteer chaplains of different faiths in providing emotional and spiritual support to patients, their families, and hospital staff. Chaplains can be called outside office hours (weeknights and weekends) to ensure patients needing comfort and support any time of day can be ministered to.”
“To me, it was a good opportunity to be commissioned as Pastor without waiting for COVID restrictions to be lifted which could take some time,” Pastor Mendigorin said.
“As a hospital chaplain, patients often call me ‘Pastor’ and it was quite uncomfortable hearing it when I was not commissioned yet, so the commissioning was very important to me. Moreover, it is uplifting to my heart that the church recognises my call and support me in this ministry.”
“The Zoom commissioning went very well as the preparation was done so thoroughly. Of course, we missed being physically together in a church, and being able to solemnly kneel during the commissioning.”
“It is such a gracious privilege to walk into every bed bringing the light of Christ, listening to every story, being with those who need to be heard, comforting the distressed and being a healing and non-anxious presence to them,” she said.
“It is also an awesome privilege to be with those who are nearing death to comfort the family and to give the final blessing to the dying patient.”
COVID, Pastor Medigorin said, had presented difficulties for families and friends to visit loved ones.
“I would like invite ministers of our churches who have members admitted to Westmead Hospital to contact me so I can provide pastoral support to them,” she said.
Mike Ansky is a Mental Health Chaplain to the Western Sydney Health District. Among other responsibilities, this role involves visiting the locked mental health wards in Cumberland, Westmead, and Blacktown hospitals.
“I run worship services, pastoral groups and meet with individual patients to support them in their spiritual needs,” he said. We work as part of a team of chaplains, Anglican, Catholic and of course Uniting. Volunteer chaplains of other faiths also work with us which provides an enriching experience for us and of course for the patients, staff and carers who have very diverse spiritual needs in this region of Sydney.”
The Zoom service, he said, was not what he had expected his induction might be like.
“I would have liked to have my friends, family and associates actually present, but with COVID-19 this, of course, was not possible,” he said.
“What surprised me was the number of people present over Zoom and how interaction was still possible before and especially after the induction service. I actually took the time to see everyone present and I will really treasure this as a special moment. It still felt like the people there were cheering us on.”
Arun Naicker works as a Chaplain for Hawkesbury Village Richmond, with daily work involving providing spiritual care and support to residents. This includes performing Chapel Services and offering a presence and listening ear to those who are hurting and grieving.
“Being a chaplain at Uniting has provided me the opportunity to not only work with members of the Uniting family but other faith community as well, which has enabled me to explore and appreciate the diversity that our religious network partners have provided me in my chaplaincy journey,” Pastor Naicker said.
“Having my induction service through Zoom was a unique experience, however I did not feel it was any less special as my colleagues, friends and network partners had the opportunity to witness my commissioning. Afterwards, I received many acknowledgements and congratulatory messages from those who attended.”