Hospital chapel celebrates 50 years

(Photos below)

20 May 2015

Taranaki Base Hospital’s Chapel celebrated its 50 year anniversary at the end of last week and marked the occasion with a special service on Saturday.

Taranaki Base Hospital Chaplain, Murray Elliot said, “The service had been a long time in the planning and the event acknowledged all those who have played a part in the chapel’s 50 years of service. It also recognised the ongoing provision of spiritual care to patients, family and staff.”
The hospital’s chapel, the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, was founded following a request from a group of nurses in 1960 who wanted a place of spiritual reflection and worship within the hospital. Funds for the Chapel’s construction were donated by the estate of local bookmaker Patrick Flannagan. Although the funds were initially intended for the construction of a gymnasium for hospital nurses.

Following the nurses’ request and a parliamentary ruling over the use of Flannagan’s estate, it was agreed the chapel would be built. Originally destined for the Barrett St Hospital, plans for the Chapel’s construction were instead added to designs for the Westown Hospital (as the Taranaki Base Hospital was formerly known), which was in its early stages of construction at the time.

Throughout its 50 years of existence there have been six different Chaplains in service, who visited patients in both the Barrett St and David St hospital sites. These Chaplains and their respective teams have been unique and innovative with the service they provide.

Rev Elliot said, “It was the first chapel in New Zealand to offer an interdenominational dedication service, catering to the range of faiths in the Taranaki community First and foremost the Chapel is used as a place of worship; however we welcome all faiths and it is open and available to everybody, including those who do not subscribe to a particular faith.”

It was also the first chapel in New Zealand to broadcast chapel services via television throughout the hospital wards. This allowed those that were unable to attend the service in the Chapel to watch from their bed instead. It was also the first Chaplaincy in New Zealand to have trained Volunteer Chaplaincy Assistants.

The Chapel has been used in a wide range of capacities over the years including baptisms, weddings, Anzac services and even a craft fair. It also plays a key role in remembrance of those in the hospital’s community who have passed. In July 2013 a commemoration service was held to mark the 50th anniversary of a tragic climbing accident in which four nurses died on Mount Taranaki. Services are also held biannually for those who have passed away in the New Plymouth Hospice and an annual ‘Wave of Light’ service for the Sudden and Newborn Death Support (SANDS) group.

Rev Elliot noted that while the chapel is used for church services every Sunday, throughout the week it is used most often as a place of quiet reflection, not only by patients but also their families and hospital staff. “It represents the presence of God in the hospital. The Chaplain and the assistants then take that presence out to the patients and their families” said Rev Elliot.

Over 100 guests attended Saturday’s service, including former Chaplains and original Chapel builders, hospital staff, local MPs and other members of the local community.

For more information please call
Cressida Gates, Media Advisor, 027 703 6177

Past and present Chaplains
From left: Mr Tony Tooman (current Catholic Chaplain), Brenda Fawkner (appointed Locum Chaplain 1995), Rev Murray Elliot (current Chaplain), Rev Peter Mitchell (Chaplain 1990-1995), Rev Robert Anderson (Chaplain 1995-2011), Rev John Raggett (first Chaplain until 1971).

The Service
Rev Robert Anderson (Chaplain 1995-2011).

Unveiling the plaque
Anne Kemp and Brenda Fawkner unveiling the plaque.

The timeline Click here to open a PDF (449KB)



Last updated: Wednesday, May 20, 2015

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