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Diocese’s chaplaincy department to be restructured

The Rev. Canon Douglas Graydon. Photo by Michael Hudson

By Stuart Mann

Major changes to the role of chaplaincy in Ontario’s hospitals over the past decade are leading the Diocese of Toronto to restructure its chaplaincy department and explore new ways of providing ministry in health care settings.

“The need for chaplaincy is there and always will be. What’s changed is how that need is met,” says the Rev. Canon Douglas Graydon, Coordinator of Chaplaincy Services for the past 15 years.

The department will complete its restructuring by late September and Canon Graydon’s job title will be changed to Coordinator of Health Care Chaplaincy. In that role, he will continue to provide support to diocesan and Anglican-affiliated chaplains and parish nurses in the diocese.

Canon Graydon will carry out his duties while serving as the new priest-in-charge of St. Andrew-by-the-Lake, Toronto, succeeding the Rev. Michael Marshall, who retired earlier this year.

The number of diocesan paid chaplains working in hospitals has dropped significantly over the years. Today there is only one – the Rev. Joanne Davies, the Anglican chaplain at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and St. John’s Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto.

Canon Graydon says the drop is due to changes taking place in the health care sector, as hospitals adapt to an increasingly diverse society and shift their financial resources elsewhere. “As our chaplains retired or left for other ministries, most hospitals chose not to replace them,” he says. “They either declared the position redundant or invited community clergy to provide services to Anglican patients.”

The other major change is that hospitals are moving towards “secular spiritual care,” employing spiritual care providers who are often trained psychotherapists. There are about 15 spiritual care providers working in the diocese who identify themselves as Anglican.

Canon Graydon says one of his jobs will be to strengthen the link between the Anglican spiritual care providers and the diocese. “Chaplaincy can be an incredibly isolating ministry,” he says. “I experienced that when I was a health care chaplain myself. You are very much on the margins of diocesan activity. So I will continue to invite the chaplains together for times of fellowship and be available to them when they have questions that relate to the diocese. They will have a voice where they can express their needs and thoughts to the College of Bishops.”

He says there is an ongoing conversation in the diocese about what the future of chaplaincy will look like. “We want to look for alternative ways of doing health-care related ministry that is very clearly Anglican in its identity but functions in a multi-faith way. The Anglican Church has a stellar reputation for providing really competent multi-faith health-care chaplaincy, but there’s not necessarily a place for that now. So I think what the diocese is trying to do is discern its way towards providing this ministry in a way that is more appropriate to our tradition.” 

He says other denominations are grappling with the same challenges. “Other denominations have either withdrawn from chaplaincy or have significantly changed how they do it.”

He’s hoping that the diocese will provide greater support to parish priests and deacons working with lay people to become better skilled or more able to visit people in hospitals and long-term care facilities. He will work with the diocese to provide more learning opportunities for lay pastoral visitors. One idea is to have an event in the spring that will bring lay pastoral visitors together and to create a network for them, to provide encouragement and learning.

“People are responding to that opportunity with an awful lot of enthusiasm, so we’ll see where that goes over the next year,” he says. “That may be the way in the future for the church to engage in these kinds of ministries.”

He thanked the Chaplaincy Committee, chaired by Sandy Richmond, for its support over the years. “One of the wonderful things about the job I’ve been doing is working with a really solid group of people who have remained committed to chaplaincy ministries and understand the value that it returns to the life and witness of the diocese. They’ve been my sounding board and have given me great ideas. They’ve been a hugely generous resource to me and I will miss them.”

Some of Canon Graydon’s departmental responsibilities will be moved to other areas within the diocese and as that happens those changes will be announced accordingly.

Archbishop Colin Johnson praised Canon Graydon for his work over the years. “Douglas has served the diocese and the provincial and national church brilliantly, both in his front-line ministry as a chaplain and in his development of policies and processes that have supported and strengthened our ministry in a rapidly changing context. He has helped us link school chaplains, lay pastoral visitors, parish nursing, lay anointers, and a variety of ministries that are critical to our mission but just out of the focus of the usual parish model. We will continue to build on his insights.”