Every day, Don Watson transforms the lives of those society sees as “the least, the last and the lost” by expressing the love of Christ in his role as Chaplain at Sydney’s Forensic Hospital.
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30 June 2023
“Chaplains are approachable people who love God and love people.”
These words from BaptistCare CEO Charles Moore sound simple, but they hold great depth. In many ways, chaplaincy is the embodiment of the BaptistCare purpose, vision and values.
Every day, Don Watson transforms the lives of those society sees as “the least, the last and the lost” by expressing the love of Christ in his role as Chaplain at Sydney’s Forensic Hospital. He longs to see everyone he meets learn how to live well. He is loving and reliable, respects those he supports, and empowers them on their difficult journeys.
The Forensic Hospital is a mental health facility for people in contact with the criminal justice system. Every patient is living through exceptionally challenging circumstances. Don has the job – and the privilege – of walking alongside them, providing spiritual care.
Don views the purpose of his role through the lens of Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
“I see my role as helping people enter God’s presence with confidence,” Don says.
“They can’t become a ‘good person’ through my spirituality, but I can help them come to God’s throne to find grace and mercy.”
Patients know that life hasn’t worked for them, so they’re asking the big questions. Don helps build a foundation for when they get out of hospital, giving them something to live for. Part of that is helping them own their individual spiritual journey.
“If a person is Christian, I want to help them be the best Christian they can be; if they’re Muslim or Sikh, I want to help them be the best Muslim or Sikh they can be… If they have a healthy spirituality, can see they have value and are worthy of love, that helps them absorb and participate in their treatment, and get the most out of it,” explains Don.
He does that through the ministry of presence, of being available. Even the hospital staff see that Don’s influence is good for patients’ mental health, bringing steadiness to life on the wards.
While Don leads chapel, memorial services, and wedding vow renewals, it is often the little things that make all the difference. He recalls visiting a patient he’d attended tribunal with, seeing him sitting on the floor chatting with a friend, and sitting down with them. That patient shares this story often, saying, “I cannot believe someone came and sat on the floor with us. No-one’s ever done that before, come down to where we are.”
This is Don’s goal, to help those who feel they have no worth begin to see themselves in the opposite light.
“It is so powerful to just be there for people who are doing it tough. Being there on behalf of God and of the community… providing access to chaplains shows people they are valued.”
As another patient has said: “You tell us we’re valuable in chapel, but you show us we’re valuable by your actions.”
Our chaplains support people across all our BaptistCare services. Find out more about our chaplaincy care here.