Chaplain to the Ambulance Service

My ambulance chaplaincy began when the senior chaplain and one of the non-executive directors of the Kent Ambulance Trust rang my doorbell in 2003, an encounter that led to my visiting Sevenoaks Ambulance Station for the next eight years.

It was a slow beginning.
Almost every week I would arrive at the station, often to find nobody there.
This improved once I discovered that ambulance crews nearly always took their meal breaks at the home station, and I gradually began to form relationships.
It took time to break down the suspicion of paramedics who had not had much experience of chaplains.
Some, like me, had been in the armed forces, which helped; so did having my dog with me from time to time.

I now visit Ashford Make Ready Centre as regularly as possible, along with deacon Sue Hibberd, a colleague in the South Kent Circuit.
Every now and again I join an ambulance crew for the day (or night).
Visiting the Make Ready Centre or a response post is workplace chaplaincy – just like visiting the shop floor or office staff in a commercial or industrial setting.
The difference is that the staff we visit may have just picked up somebody’s remains under a motorway bridge or along a railway track; failed to resuscitate a young person who had been talking to them moments before; or delivered a still-born baby.
They may have spent all day picking up old people, or all night picking up drunks and victims of violence.
In other respects they are normal human beings with all the pressures faced by other human beings: family concerns, economic worries, health issues (backs are particularly at risk) and sometimes, in these troubled times, low morale at work or uncertainty about the future.

Peter Hills
Ambulance Service chaplain