Once was plumber now hospital chaplain


Life has changed a lot for Joe Gray since becoming an Ecumenical Chaplain at Taranaki Base Hospital.

He’d been a plumber for 32 years before that.

“When you hang a toilet, fit a bath, turn it on and it’s done, you walk away” he said.

Gray says life is extremely different going from a 9am to 5pm plumbing job to what he calls the ’24/5′ – 24 hours, five days a week – hospital chaplaincy job.

There’s no walking away from the hospital at 5pm if you’re needed – or complaining that it’s too early at 6am.

Being a chaplain at the hospital is like being on an emotional rollercoaster ride, he says.

“You’re with one family who are really happy because they’ve got good news and they’re walking out the door.

“You’re with another family and the news isn’t as good for them. You’re riding that rollercoaster ride with them.

“I find it very hard not to actually personally get involved. It’s how I’m wired that I actually do [react] emotionally with people.

“They’re in tears and I’m in tears, so I know that I connect with their story and their journey.”

Being a chaplain can be extremely difficult, Gray says.

“The most difficult would be where I don’t sense I’m helping or making a difference in people’s perspective of where they are.”

But he’s happy with his new role and is pleased to welcome everyone to the hospital chapel, whatever their needs are.

He says people from all walks of life and faith, even those with no faith, are welcome.

Gray says here is there to serve the spirit and people of Taranaki.

“It’s worth it” Gray says.

Nonetheless, winding down after work is essential.

Sometimes he’ll have a coffee with his wife. Other times he’ll get out for fresh air and physical exercise.

A lie down doesn’t go amiss either, he adds.


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