16th September 2014

Hospice chaplain ordained as Interfaith Minister

Sheila Simmonds, one of the longest-serving volunteer members of the St Richard’s Hospice chaplaincy team, has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister.

For Sheila, who co-ordinates chaplaincy support on the In-patient Unit at the Wildwood Drive hospice, this is the culmination of two years of training at the London-based Interfaith Seminary.  Sheila, now Revd Sheila Simmonds, said, “The ordination was a wonderful, moving occasion and was the perfect fulfilment of two years of preparation.”

Sheila added, “My training in the beliefs and customs of different world religions will reinforce the hospice’s commitment to caring for people of all faiths and none. I have particularly enjoyed hearing different faith leaders speak about their religious customs, and have followed this up by making many visits to temples, mosques, synagogues and sacred landscapes, here in the UK and also in Australia and Singapore. I have been fascinated by ancient earth traditions, including, for example, Aboriginal culture, which I studied during my time in Australia. I have also discovered a special interest in Islam, which I feel suffers from much misunderstanding.   During the whole two-year process my own faith as a committed Christian has been strengthened and deepened.  I look forward to continuing to offer my support, and to bringing the work of the hospice to a wider network in the community. “

Sheila, who was born and brought up in Worcestershire, and has lived in Malvern for the past 21 years, has had a longstanding interest in religion and spirituality:  “The different ways in which people sense and express their spirituality is fascinating.”  Having worked in the hospice as both a volunteer complementary therapist, and now as a volunteer chaplain, she has really enjoyed the opportunities offered by both roles to help people explore their beliefs and find their own spiritual voice.

The Interfaith Foundation first emerged in the USA after World War II, being established by a New York Rabbi, Joseph Gelberman, who lost many of his family during the Holocaust.  His conversations with other faith leaders resulted in agreement that one of the most urgent needs of the post war world was for the world’s religions to play their part in preventing war by learning to appreciate each other’s insights. 70 years later, Sheila has joined the international community of ministers committed to serving that original vision.

David Knight, the lead chaplain to the hospice, commented, “Sheila is a very valuable member of the chaplaincy and hospice team.  The importance of this training can’t be overstated.  We are committed to making sure that people from all faith traditions will feel at home in our care.”

Robert Standfield, Head of Education at the hospice, offered his congratulations to Sheila. “As a hospice we support the further training of all our staff to make sure that our care is always the best it can be.”