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Passing the baton

Anne Farquharson and Beth RobertsA funny thing happened to Majors Anne Farquharson and Beth Roberts on their way, respectively, to retirement from active officership, and the next appointment – they were granted permission to work together as part of a succession planning process for Anne’s role as territorial chaplaincy coordinator.

Well, ‘funny’ as in unusual, creative, different, rather than humorous, although the decision is bringing considerable delight to the two women impacted, Anne and Beth.

‘I am excited that our leaders value chaplaincy, and recognise a process of walking alongside others to pass the baton,’ says Anne. ‘Often chaplains are the unsung workers and this innovative step really places the chaplaincy profile high in the organisational priorities.’

‘This is the first transition experience I have had as an officer in The Salvation Army,’ Beth ponders, ‘and the first that I know of in a Salvation Army context.

‘We didn’t really apply or ask for this,’ she adds, ‘but I was interested in the role, and Anne was interested in the succession plan for her. In the appointment process the overlap was seen as a good and helpful outcome. It’s been met with positive responses by cabinet members and personnel, and it’s been an affirming experience for both Anne and myself.’

Beth affirms that to move into the role when Anne retires in July 2014 ‘there are some qualifications I need to obtain, and I’m working towards them. In order to take on the role I am conscious of having to upskill, so this process gives me time to come to grips with RTOs and the formal learning processes of chaplains. This way no-one, least of all our chaplains, is disadvantaged.’

Self-awareness, friendship and mature discourse have certainly shaped Beth for her current and future role.

‘My leadership style is relational, so long appointments suit me fine. Graham and I shared our responsibilities in joint appointments, according to our strengths. When you work with people as a team you need a shared, consistent voice. I am a details person. I keep mental checklists and think things through by stages, whereas Graham is a big picture, visionary person.

‘My strengths include pastoral care, which ties in with relational leadership. I believe that I am an authentic person, and I hope that people get what they see with me.

‘To an extent I am task oriented. I like to see things through to completion. There can be a creative tension between respecting where people are at and wanting to advance the cause.

‘I am cautious by nature, I learn by doing and engaging with people. I don’t; really like change. But I have learnt that change produced many opportunities that I can embrace and grow from. I am looking forward to growing and earning in this new role.’

Anne, for her part, appreciates ‘the way Beth gives positive input to things, and offers a perspective that enlarges my thinking about chaplaincy’. 

‘Being in the position for a few years can sometimes mean that things happened because that is the way it’s been done,’ she adds.

‘New insights and new ideas have to be a positive thing. If chaplaincy is to remain at the forefront of ministry, then innovation has to be evident.  Beth brings fresh ideas and ways of doing things: change is normal, for things to grow.’

‘Coming into an appointment,’ Beth notes, ‘you have to earn respect, and the right to lead. It’s after that process that you can bring about change, knowing that people will come with you. I am conscientious and I like to understand my environment and my role fully.’

Beth says that serving as a chaplain in Tasmania was ‘an immersion experience – I am a champion of chaplaincy. I have seen how valuable it is in social programs, and managers recognise the value of chaplains.

‘Often there are few or no Salvos on deck at centres and services, and workers and management recognise the need to try to provide pastoral care and meet people’s spiritual needs. This can create a difficulty for staff, who work against climates of dependency from clients by exercising professional distance.

‘Chaplains can help to bridge those kinds of gaps in social programs, and meet all of our mission intentions.’

Another part of Beth’s role she would like to explore is building relationships with chaplaincy coordinators, so she can work more closely with people on the ground. ‘We, as people bound to THQ, need to resource those people who are doing the upfront, frontline work. Part of my role as a senior chaplain in Tasmania (see below) was a networking role between chaplains. The chaplaincy cadre grew to five people at one stage, mostly acting as chaplains in secondary roles to their primary appointment.

‘We need to listen, to provide resources and, human nature being what it is, be seen to be resourcing them.’