The role of the chaplain

The role of the hospital chaplain has changed and developed over the years.

A plaque in the Chapel commemorates an earlier Chaplain, Revd John Webster Marsden Williams, who worked at Mayday in the 1930’s. Two of his ‘work logs’ (see photograph) still survive indicating that the majority of his work was religious and sacramental and those he was caring for, both staff and patients, almost exclusively Christian.Chaplains Report Book

Today’s hospital chaplains continue to fulfil a religious and sacramental role but their remit is now far wider than anything Revd. Williams could have imagined. We hope that the following information will answer some of the questions you might have about chaplaincy within an acute hospital such as Mayday set in the culturally diverse setting that is Croydon.

Role of chaplains today

Chaplains are here to help NHS Trusts fulfil their obligations to ensure that the privacy, dignity and religious and cultural beliefs of all their patients are respected. Their basic role is to be involved in the provision of holistic care – that is care which includes not only a person’s physical health but also their social, emotional and spiritual health or well being. 

Chaplains are there to provide help and support to a diversity of people. Such support may focus on the emotional or spiritual adjustment to illness or on an individuals search for meaning and purpose during a difficult time. Chaplains are regularly involved in offering support during crisis situations as well as on-going care and encouragement during recovery.  

Ministry to patients is the Chaplain’s prime responsibility but care and support for relatives and friends is another important part of the role. Caring for and visiting a loved one in hospital, especially during times of suffering and uncertainty, is costly and through providing a space for the needs of carers to be heard and addressed Chaplains try to make a difference. The hospital staff are another major area of pastoral responsibility for the chaplain. 

Today the following are just part of a role that continues to broaden to address the spiritual and emotional needs of the 21st century

  • Religious and sacramental care
  • Pastoral Care & Counselling
  • Co-ordinating religious & spiritual care for all faith communities within the hospital
  • Provision of resources on ethical issues
  • Crisis support
  • Bereavement care
  • Training opportunities on areas of religious and spiritual care and ethical issues.


NHS Direct Department of Health

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