The chaplain of a Shropshire hospice is not letting the pandemic stop him from providing spiritual support to its patients.
Before the pandemic, people who were either on the wards at Severn Hospice or using its Day Services, met on the third Tuesday of the month to worship in the hospice’s sanctuary.
But for almost a year they have been unable to do so, as many of them have been shielding and restrictions have been placed on those visiting the hospice.
Instead, Reverend Tim Bush has organised monthly Zoom sessions where he leads prayers, and the ‘congregation’ can sometimes enjoy a few hymns.
And now he is regularly seeing more than 15 people log on and join in.
Tim said: “It has been really nice being able to see people once a month.
“Before lockdown I used to go along to the coffee mornings and out of about 50 people, 15 would come to the service. It was not overly religious – it was nice and relaxed, and I would pray, and we would have a thought for the day.
“Then lockdown happened and so our meetings ground to a halt. But I kept in touch with them and then, when we realised that lockdown was going to go on for a lot longer, it seemed appropriate to support them in other ways than just by telephone.
“I asked around and people said they would like to do something online. So, in June we started, and I had three people. It was a bit of a social catch-up. The next time I did it in the sanctuary but that didn’t work so well so now I do it from my office.”
And it has turned out to be a real success – at Christmas Tim arranged a carol service and they all joined in. “They really loved that,” he said. “They couldn’t get to a carol service of their own, but they really enjoyed the Zoom one even though I had to mute them, so we didn’t all sing out of time.
“The online service is growing, it is a really positive thing and we have adapted it so that it works for everyone. It is lovely to be able to do this: it’s about maintaining a piece of normality for them. It is just something to do to support them spiritually and we all need that at this time. It’s a really nice way of letting people know we are there for them.”
People are told about the services by the hospice’s Day Services’ team. “Day Services are amazing, and they know all about this so they recommend people to me who they think will benefit,” added Tim.
One of those to enjoy the monthly service is Janice Bain from Telford. Before lockdown, she used to attend the hospice’s weekly coffee mornings and was a regular churchgoer.
“It’s nice just to have the contact with people,” she said. “My husband and I used to go to our local church each week, but then during lockdown our vicar and his wife transferred to a different church and we don’t yet have a replacement. We feel a bit bereft, so the services with Tim really do make such a difference.
“It is wonderful to see a familiar face. We’ve got to know each other, and we now have a nice chat at the same time.
“We find things amusing and we cheer each other up: it is a really nice way of keeping in touch with what’s going on in the hospice. It’s just lovely to know that people care. The hospice has been there not just for me but for my family and to be able to have a little bit of the service we used to take part in in the hospice’s sanctuary at home is really, really special.“
Another to take part is Sally Warren from Newport and her daughter Caroline Readman. Caroline used to work at Severn Hospice as a complementary therapist and knows Tim well.
“The online services have been a real comfort to my mum,” said Caroline. “At the moment she only sees me and a couple of carers, so it is nice for her to see some familiar faces.
“She used to go to the services in the sanctuary and these Zoom services are done in an atmosphere that is not threatening. It is a lifeline for people who have faith and who went to the services before. To have this continuity with Tim is so important and means so much to them.”
Following on from the success of the Christmas carol service, Tim is already planning an Easter special.
“It will be nice to see everyone and catch-up with them online and be able to share in this with them,” he said. “It brings comfort and that is what the hospice is about, we are always here for people and we can’t stop caring.”