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Rev. Dan Bowyer with Trinity Village residents

They have been there and they have seen it first hand. Rev. Dan Bowyer and Rev. Hilton Gomes serve as chaplains at two long-term care facilities located in Huron. We share with you their stories of dealing with the pandemic.

The time of COVID-19 has sped up what is a very fast-paced ministry on any given day, says Rev. Dan Bowyer, who serves as the chaplain at Trinity Village, Kitchener, a long-term care centre that is a ministry of the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, full-communion partner of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Asked if in retrospect he felt adequately prepared for dealing with the pandemic crisis in his role as a healthcare chaplain, Bowyer points out that he is thankful that he has served in ordained ministry in the Diocese of Huron for fourteen years before accepting this role at a long-term care facility.

“The chaplaincy ministry at Trinity Village is not one that I would have wanted to begin without having had some pastoral experience in ordained ministry”, says Bowyer.

He admits that he often found himself recalling the words of his supervisor at his parish internship placement back in the summer of 2005, before he was ordained:

“He pointed out the importance of being present in the moment, so that God’s presence could be made known for those I am called to serve in the times of great pastoral need and to find time afterwards to do my own processing.  I have never forgotten this, and it has been particularly helpful now.”

Part of the stress during the pandemic has come from the unpredictability of what each day will bring, says Bowyer. Strict rules introduced at the home care facility have imposed various limitations to the usual way of providing his ministry. Worship, discussion groups, music ministries – all activities he typically leads or co-ordinates at Trinity Village – require group gatherings, and those have been on hold for months. Rev. Bowyer’s role has been directed to one-on-one spiritual and pastoral daily support. And this has been done in difficult circumstances with limited movements throughout the facility while wearing personal protective equipment.

“We have to change into new PPE when we move from one area of Trinity Village to another and I change into new PPE immediately after I have visited and offered prayer in the room of a resident who has COVID-19”, says Bowyer.

As the numbers of infected decline and life at the residence slowly returns to what resembles the “old normal”, the chaplain is able to contemplate on what has given him strength to persist in his role in the last several months.

“This experience has shown me that God’s presence is faithful in the midst of challenges. Prayer and the knowledge of God’s guidance with me, first and foremost has been the source of my strength, hope and encouragement”, reflects Bowyer.

Many of the staff have told Rev. Dan that prayer has helped them in their everyday tasks throughout these difficult times.

“Dan’s gentle words of comfort and encouragement gave many of us the strength and courage”, says Charlotte, Trinity Village RPN summing up a notion which emerged at this time of crisis – that having a chaplain on staff at any long term centre is a necessity.

READ REV. HILTON GOMES’ STORY: ‘Give the best you have, and it will never be enough’

For Trinity Village residents and their families these last few months have only reaffirmed that Rev. Dan Bowyer’s presence covers much more than providing religious services. In the words of Natalie, one of the family members, the time of anxiousness and fear amplified the need to have a chaplain at the long-term care facility, especially one like Rev. Dan:

“He is a person of hope and calmness – a reason to smile”.

Rev. Dan Bowyer is thankful to his wife Sarah who has been a constant support amid his exhaustion. He has also much appreciated the pastoral care and support of Bishop Todd who has checked in with him pastorally numerous times.  His gratitude goes to Bishop Mike at the Eastern Synod of the ELCiC, his Archdeacon Megan and all colleagues in the Deanery of Waterloo of the Diocese of Huron who have assured him of their prayers and have sent gifts to Trinity Village for the staff, like donations of lunch and “ear savers” for staff’s masks.

“I have been blessed by God’s work through so many different people to make known his presence both with me and with Trinity Village in these days”, concludes Rev. Bowyer.

Davor Milicevic