Disaster chaplains are on the ground near fire sites, providing practical and pastoral care. The Uniting Church coordinates this important service. Crookwell Uniting Church’s minister Rev. Daniel Mossfield is one such chaplain, working to help people who have recently lost everything.
Rev. Mossfield was ordained as a Minister of the Word in 2019, after previously serving as a lay Pastor. His chaplaincy work has him serving at an evacuation centre in Goulburn. This work is part of the coordinated government response to the bushfire. Rev. Mossfield told Insights that the hardest part of this work was when the evacuation centre was quiet. “It actually involved a great deal of waiting, which ironically was probably more tiring than when there were a lot of people coming in at once in need of help,” he said.
“I wonder if that is what drives us into the need to help: the fact that the sitting in our own grief and anxiety is just so draining.”
Rev. Mossfield has argued that sometimes well-meaning responses to disasters can have adverse effects if not properly considered and prepared. He notes that agencies and volunteers at the evacuation centre, “have spent hours training and preparing for these kinds of disasters.”
Writing for his blog, Old Wine in New Skin, Rev. Mossfield said that the bushfires had prompted him to reflect on how the church might reconsider its theology of the Incarnation. “I have been pondering where God is in this disaster,” he wrote. “I wonder how many of us, even subconsciously, fall into resentment of a God who sits in the clouds and continues to withhold from us the precious rain that would provide the only true relief to this troubled continent?”
“I wonder how our Christmas might feel different when we discover God through the summer dust under our feet, feeling no less desperate than us as the clouds refuse to grace us with their precious cargo?”
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor