Humanists consider that everyone needs compassion and empathy when they’re going through a particularly difficult time whatever their beliefs about life and death. It is enormously valuable to their mental and physical wellbeing. For a number of years members of Farnham Humanists have been supporting people in hospital, hospice and in the police when they have requested a need for someone with likeminded beliefs to talk to.
Hospital “Chaplain” or Pastoral Supporter
For the past couple of years Farnham member David Savage has been a volunteer Humanist “Chaplain” at Guy’s Hospital in London as the only non-religious pastoral supporter for the third of patients who don’t follow a religion. He has been attending a chaplaincy training course alongside religious chaplains most of who are salaried funded by the NHS. David recounts how one patient, who he supported through her illness, when they first met had said “I’m an atheist please go away” to which he replied “I’ve got a surprise for you – so am I”. Before she was discharged she told David that he had been the only ‘neutral’, like-minded person she felt she could talk to, and their conversations had been really useful to her. She said she was desperate for the service to be available to more patients.
Humanist Police Listener or “Chaplain”
Local Humanists have been providing a volunteer “Chaplain” or Humanist Listener to Surrey Police since 2010. Alec Leggatt handed this role over to Ruth de Prey, who in turn has handed it over to Alan Bartlett of Guildford and Woking Humanists.
Surrey Police Chaplaincy comprises a salaried Chaplain co-ordinator jointly funded by the Police and the Diocese of Guildford together with a group of around 20 volunteers including 14 or so Christians of various denominations, a Jew, a Baha’i, a Sikh, a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Humanist. It is part of the “Diversity” department of the Police and its role is to provide a service to individual police officers and an advice link for public attitudes. The chaplaincy representation compares with the police statistics (2010) for Police Officers: Christian 40%, None 20%, Unknown 38% Other 2% and for Police Staff: Christian 46% None 24% Unknown 28% Other 3%.”
Members have also, when requested, visited people in Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice
As well as our members volunteering as individuals for a number of organisations and giving Volunteer Pastoral Support, other areas members give time are: