Uniting Church ministers recognised for bushfire chaplaincy service
A number of Uniting Church ministers have received a Bushfire Emergency Citation from the NSW government for chaplaincy work during the Summer bushfires.
Rev. Terence Corkin was one such chaplain, providing his time at an evacuation centre in his local community of Moruya.
Rev. Corkin told Insights that receiving the recognition was a pleasant surprise.
“I’d actually gotten on with ministry. You move in to the next thing. For me, ministry is about being in the moment,” he said.
“It was a bit of a surprise to be recognised.”
This chaplaincy work at Moruya was somewhat unusual, as chaplains do not typically work in their own local context. As Rev. Corkin explained, however, it came about out of necessity.
“They had run out of chaplains, and they had run out of roads to get people there,” he said.
With fires within 1.5 kilometres of his home, Rev. Corkin and his family had to evacuate themselves.
“We’d pulled stumps and left for the third time.”
“I just kept coming and going to the evac centre.”
Being in the centre himself, and going through much the same experience as those who he was providing chaplaincy to, Rev. Corkin found himself able to easily empathise with their anxieties, such as whether or not their homes would still be there when they went back to them.
“I think that made it a little more relatable,” he said.
“Sharing that experience of evacuation heightens one’s sensitivity and puts one in close touch with some of the things people are feeling.”
Rev. Corkin said that he wants to use his citation to also highlight the work of others who are not receiving the same recognition for their efforts during the bushfires.
“Family should also be thanked for letting me go and do the chaplaincy while I might have also been useful at home during the fires,” Rev. Corkin said.
“All these volunteers, their families share their time. These families deserve a medal.”
“The state government is acknowledging how important communities pulling together is.
“I hope it is an encouragement for communities to build capacity to pull together when they need to.”
“There are always so many people who do above and beyond work…who don’t get these citations. I saw that in the centre. We should take pause and be thankful for them.”
The bushfires lasted from September 2019 until March 2020, when all fires were extinguished, in what was one of Australia’s worst-ever ecological disasters. The Uniting Church provided assistance to those affected through a number of avenues.
Disaster chaplains were on the ground near fire sites, providing practical and pastoral care. The Uniting Church coordinated this important service. Chaplains who served as part of the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network have received the citation.
In NSW and the ACT, the church also provided aid through the Moderator’s relief fund and initiatives to provide those affected with temporary housing solutions.