SA Bushfires Chaplaincy Update

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The Uniting Church Assembly's National Disaster Recovery Officer Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson spoke to Wendy Perkins, Disaster and Recovery Ministries Coordinator at the SA Synod to get an update on the chaplaincy response to the bushfires which broke out on the Yorke Peninsula last week. The area around Yorketown and Edithburgh has been severely impacted. Wendy speaks about this particular event, but also about the chaplaincy needs earlier this month after a severe hail storm destroyed whole harvests of grapes and stone fruit in the Riverland.

Listen to their conversation here.

Stephen is also providing regular updates on disaster chaplaincy responses to bushfire and heatwave emergencies across Australia. In a number of states, the UCA and its agencies coordinate ecumenical and interfaith chaplaincy for state and local governments. Uniting Church ministers and lay people are at the forefront of what is historically the largest scale chaplaincy response on record. Follow Stephen's updates here.

A UCSA Bushfire Relief Fund has been set up to support the work of the local Uniting Church congregations in bushfire-affected areas of South Australia. If congregations or individuals would like to support them financially, this can be done by donating to the fund here.

For those seeking to support Uniting Church disaster recovery work across Australia, the National Disaster Relief Fund exists to help disaster-hit communities for the long term.

Please consider praying for these communities in your worship services this weekend. This moving prayer, adapted from a prayer written by the Moderator of the NSW and ACT Synod, Rev Simon Hansford, may be helpful:


God of life and restoration,
our prayers today are where our hearts and minds
have been during these last days
and where they have been drawn so early in this season;
with those communities and individuals
whose lives have been damaged
in differing ways by the bushfires.

We pray for those who have been injured and survived:
for physical and emotional trauma;
for the fear and helplessness experienced;
for the anger and frustration at the injustice
of unavoidable disaster.

We pray for those who have lost their home and property
or are facing such loss:
for those who have been forced to leave
their memories and belongings;
for the fear & disorientation of all involved;
Heal them from their nightmare memories.

We are aware of those who have lost stock,
or are watching their stock suffer
sometimes with inevitable consequences;
we are conscious of those
who are struggling to find feed and water
for the stock under their care.

We pray for all involved in fighting the fire:
for our Country Fire Service and their leadership
and all those we know and those we do not know;
we pray for courage in a place of fear;
for new strength in the face of exhaustion;
for people who have travelled distances
in order to resource those who experience fatigue.

We pray for all who offer support and care at this time:
for the various agencies, churches and community groups;
for disaster response chaplains;
for government services as they are activated;
for friends and neighbours, known and unknown;
for providing a shoulder upon which to lean, or weep;

We give thanks, too,
for the generosity of many, in small and large ways,
towards those who are struggling.

We are mindful of the days, weeks and months ahead,
for many dangerous days yet to come,
for seasons of recovery and rebuilding,
of homes, farms, lives and communities;
we pray for strength, courage, patience and hope
as grieving continues,
as frustrations rise
and inevitable changes occur.

We pray, too, knowing that we are entering a harsher climate,
less predictable and more volatile;
as we care for each other, help us to care for your creation,
to be worthy stewards and advocates
of all which you have made.

Keep us faithful and alert
in our praying and our action;
in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

What is Disaster and Recovery Ministries?

Disaster and Recovery Ministries is an increasingly multi-faith ministry in South Australia. It's about providing pastoral care for communities who are recovering from disasters, whether natural (bushfires, floods, severe storms etc) or those of human origin (large workplace or transport accident, terrorist attack etc). This ministry operates under a Memorandum of Understanding with the SA Government and in partnership with other participating organisations. While other services and groups will aid in taking care of people’s physical and emotional needs, chaplaincy seeks to support people’s spiritual and pastoral needs.

When disasters strike, people are affected in every aspect of their lives: physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Issues of meaning, justice, forgiveness, hope and worldview have spiritual elements. These are all challenged at a time of major loss, and many people connect these things with their own faith or spirituality. Holistic care should allow for pastoral and spiritual care and comfort in this context.

Disaster & Recovery Ministries Chaplains:

  • Provide pastoral presence and spiritual support to people and communities following disasters. This usually happens in Relief Centres, Recovery Centres and on follow up outreach visits throughout the community.
  • Participate in recovery activities in the affected community.
  • Provide resources, training and support to local faith leaders as they, in turn, support their communities in recovery.

All D&RM chaplains undertake an intensive training course which seeks to equip them with the best skills to offer pastoral and spiritual support to disaster-affected people. Areas covered include pastoral care, the nature of compassion, phases of recovery, calming strategies, spiritual issues in trauma and the ministry of presence. Skills in caring for traumatised people are useful in a range of pastoral situations within faith groups and in the wider community.

D&RM chaplains bring a listening ear and let people tell their story. They are non-judgemental and refrain from preaching or telling people what to do. Their focus is on care, comfort and offering a ministry of presence to people in need.

If you would be interested in becoming a Disaster & Recovery Ministries Chaplain, find more information here. While training dates have not yet been scheduled for 2020, you can contact Wendy Perkins for more information on 08 8236 4284 or by email:



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