Since 1989 Heather has worked as a Deaconess at Alexandra Presbyterian in north Belfast. Heather's primary responsibility is for the pastoral care of the elderly, the sick at home and in hospital, and the housebound.
She regularly participates in worship services and also encourages others to use their gifts in worship. Alexandra is a busy congregation and Heather focuses her time with young teens, especially throughout the summer, and with the elderly through Light Lunch Club and regular outings. Heather also assists the Hospital Chaplains in the Royal Victoria Hospital and Musgrave Park Hospital when required.
Heather grew up on a dairy farm in the Craigantlet Hills and attended Strean Presbyterian Church in Newtownards. Upon completion of her A Levels and before entering Deaconess training, she worked in a home bakery as a cook. Heather has two children.
In September 1989 I moved from Greystone Road congregation in Antrim to Alexandra in North Belfast and, in 2016, I moved from congregational work to hospital Chaplaincy.
I started working as deaconess in the Royal and City Hospitals in April 2016, while continuing to provide cover when needed in Musgrave Park Hospital. It is a pleasure to assist Rev. Norman Harrison in the Royal Hospital three days each week, Rev. Brian Hughes in the City Hospital on a Tuesday morning and Rev. Paul Erskine in Musgrave Park Hospital as and when required.
The outside appearance of the hospitals can often seem very cold and imposing, but inside is a world of kindness and compassion bringing hope, healing and care to those of all ages who find themselves unwell.
It is a privilege to visit the hospital wards, but also to be welcome across the whole site. There are always opportunities to listen and share in a corridor, a lift, in the café or at the services in the Cancer Centre each Tuesday at 12.30pm and in the Royal at 2pm on a Sunday, or at prayer times in the Quiet Room on a Thursday. Also, at each bedside I have many opportunities to leave a helpful leaflet with patients or a Gideon Bible and many opportunities each day to read a passage of scripture and pray with patients and family members.
It is a privilege to be part of a team that brings professional care to patients, staff, and visitors. I have benefitted from the fellowship of the Chaplaincy Team who work well alongside each other and as a family who care for one another. I have enjoyed the varied and ongoing training events organised by the Northern Ireland Hospital Chaplaincy Association. Our next training is in February 2017 and is covering Fostering hope in others, a role for health care Chaplains, and Ministering to those with intellectual Disabilities. We also, as a Chaplaincy Department, have regular mandatory training through the Belfast Trust.
Each week I also visit on two wards in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children. I visit bed to bed, all denominations and faiths. A great highlight was giving out 500 Bauble Books (a decoration and book in one) to children in hospital over Christmas. The books, provided by Scripture Union, were well received. They explained the meaning of Christmas and the joy of Jesus being born for us. It was lovely to hear parents read to their children while on the wards.
As a child, I was encouraged not to talk to strangers, but since starting in Chaplaincy, I spend each day meeting and talking to strangers. Each week, I make around 100 contacts and it is a joy to remind people that our church cares for them while in hospital, but God cares and is with them as they face ill health.
We have the greatest story of all time - God’s Word reveals the glory of God. It inspires us to follow God through the challenges, struggles and triumphs. It helps us find encouragement and the strength to face each day.
“Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all.” Mark 16:15 (Message translation)