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New chaplain joins Ealing Hospital

Hospital Chaplain Julia Bevis-Knowles knew she’d be happy working at Ealing thanks to the help of a hospital porter.

She had decided to recce the site before her job interview and ended up getting lost until the porter came to the rescue.

“It was the smallest of things but made a real impression on me and reflects the sense of ‘family’ here,” said Julia

Ealing hasn’t had a dedicated on-site chaplain for a couple of years and Julia, who originally trained as an occupational psychologist, has been helping raise its profile with the help of Lead Chaplain David Byrne.

“We’re here for everyone regardless of faith and I’m part of a growing team including Hindu, Muslim and Sikh chaplains. I find the dog collar is always a good conversation starter when I’m doing my rounds.

“Hospital is a crossroads of sorts where people often reflect on life because of their personal circumstances. The big questions come up that we tend to avoid when life is going smoothly. Our role is to be there, listen and offer support to patients, relatives and hospital staff.”

Isn’t there a conflict between medicine and spirituality?

“They aren’t so far apart and it is often about finding common ground. I’ve recently been reflecting with medical colleagues on the question of pain and how persistent pain often seems unresponsive to drug therapies.

“It has generated some interesting discussion about the nature and potential sources of pain as well as highlighting the contribution of different perspectives within holistic approaches to care.” 

Julia is the first to admit that faith can be something of a journey.

She grew up in South Wales where faith was an important part of valley life and going to church and chapel three times on a Sunday wasn’t unusual.

“I loved being part of these close knit communities but nevertheless, drifted away from my faith as a teenager. It wasn’t until I won a swimming scholarship to America and wandered into a church one day that I reconnected with it. It just felt like I was home.”

Julia graduated as an occupational psychologist working for a government department but couldn’t help thinking there had to be more to life.

“The feeling just grew and I subsequently trained to be a lay hospital chaplain, and then an ordained priest within the Church of England.

“I’m glad I listened to my feelings of unease and to those encouraging voices around me – it’s brought me back to where I feel I belong.”

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