Surge of new chaplains to reclaim streets

An island-wide team of chaplains has mobilised to help families deal with tragedy.

The 57 members of the Bermuda Chaplains Group also bring comfort to one another as they deal with their own losses.

The chaplain’s group is set to grow and will have about 70 licensed members by next month.

Althea Winifred, director of the group, said the milestone would also “let the island know that we are here to help”.

She added: “It’s about serving the community — not trying to get you to join our church or our ministry; we just want you to know we’re here for you.”

Franklin Francis, one of the chaplains’ team, said his motivation was simple: “I really love people.”

Sometimes the tragedies are personal — like a message of support at the funeral of his cousin’s baby, which Mr Francis said was “really hard”.

He added: “Even the pastor for the service said it was basically the hardest thing he’d had to deal with.

“But I prayed on it and tried to bring words of comfort.”

Mr Francis said he felt “overwhelmed” during a spate of tragedies several weeks ago.

He added: “You can definitely feel that weight.

“But there is unity in strength and strength in unity.”

Mr Francis added: “When I feel weak, I can call someone. I would encourage any and all who would love to serve the country and to serve in general to come aboard.”

He said: “There are so many people going through so much. We all have our turn.”

Madeline Hayward, Mr Francis’s pastor at the First Church of God, encouraged him to take the chaplaincy course.

He said the date he passed the course, June 4, 2016, was engraved on his memory.

Mr Francis added that since then “when people need help or prayer, in the community or wherever, I am readily available”.

Gina Spence, a community activist, is another chaplain accredited by the group, which is certified by the Canadian

International Chaplaincy Association.

Ms Spence said: “It can be rough. We see so many difficult scenarios where people are at their end.”

She added she had helped care for a mother whose son had been killed, and found her “lying on the floor at the hospital, just grief stricken and weeping”.

Ms Spence said she got down on the floor beside her and helped her back on to her feet.

The group came together last month to find a home for a family, including an infant, which was unable to find affordable housing.

A young person on the verge of suicide was reached just in time in another case.

Ms Spence said: “The rope was there. Thankfully, we were able to get to them.”

She added that the chaplains also lost a member of their own team to a heart attack and had to rally together to support one another.

Ms Spence said: “In order for us to be our best, we have to take care of ourselves. If I need to be refreshed, we have a network that will pick me up.

“The chaplains group is phenomenal that way. It’s not a church. It’s a group of Christian people available to serve. It crosses all denominational barriers, all cultures, all colours. That in itself is powerful.”

Dr Winifred gained her licence in the United States in October 2010,

She said that she was given spiritual direction to take her training home.

Dr Winifred added: “I heard God say ‘take this to Bermuda’.”

The Bermuda Chaplains Group formed in October 2014 and has grown steadily with representatives in every parish.

Dr Winifred said: “We can dispatch chaplains to a family that’s had a son murdered in a half-hour or less.

“We not only minister to the families of victims. We minister to the offender and their families. We are committed to ministering to the whole nation.”

She added that the decision to talk about the group and its work was collective.

Dr Winifred said: “I e-mailed all the chaplains to say, are we ready as a group? They sent messages back saying yes, it’s time for the community of Bermuda to know that we are here.”

Dr Winifred has written a manual to explain the role and teaches a chaplaincy introductory class with a $20 fee to cover the cost of the course.

The group said it planned to hold a special gathering next month to celebrate the graduation of a dozen new chaplains.

Dr Winifred said the group hoped to get ten per cent of Bermuda’s population qualified to assist people through an “overwhelming increase in traumatic events” from gang activity to road deaths.

•To learn more about the chaplain service, e-mail or visit

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