Two chaplains twice as nice for Port Sorell

Two chaplains twice as nice for Port Sorell

By Paul O'Rourke


Two chaplains are twice as nice for students and families of Port Sorell Primary School.


Chaplain of three years, Erin Reid, was joined eight weeks ago by Gabbie Rogers-Smith, a pharmacist who returned from the mainland in January to study and serve.


At least two chaplains are needed at a school where 80 to 100 children attend the twice-weekly breakfast club, and almost as many take part in the Lego and craft groups that meet weekly during lunch times.


Erin, a mum of three school-age children under 11, said students, teachers and parents had embraced chaplaincy.


“The kids are hungry for genuine care,” she said.


“I’ve had emails from teachers saying they are not sure how they would have coped if I had not been there at a particular time.


“Relationships and trust take time and you can’t rush them. Most parents are more than happy to chat about how they are feeling, share problems at home. They know and appreciate the role of a chaplain as a non-judgemental support person.


“You may not feel like you’re achieving much at the time, but over a long period, you can see a complete change.”


Both women were asked to become chaplains after moving to Tasmania from the mainland.


Erin was studying for a diploma of counselling when a chaplain at her church suggested she apply, while Gabbie initially expressed interest in student mentoring when she heard about the desperate need for more chaplains.


They see chaplaincy as a calling rather than a job.


While both women have specific roles: breakfast club, craft groups and Lego gatherings, most of their time is purposefully unstructured so they can be free to respond to needs as they arise.


“We pray that God will lead us to the student who needs us most that day,” Erin said.


Gabbie said she saw her role as a caring and trustworthy friend, someone who was not an authority figure, and whose role was to help students flourish.


“The kids are hungry for connection. Many get it at home, but some don’t and they are searching for a genuine relationship with someone who cares,” Gabbie said.


“It gives me enormous joy to be here.”


Erin has studied counselling and chaplaincy, while Gabbie is halfway through a theological degree, and has experience in counselling and Christian youth ministry.


Port Sorell Primary School is growing in line with the region’s housing boom, creating both opportunity and need.


Some mainlanders attracted by comparatively cheaper housing struggle if they cannot get work in the area, while others battle loneliness from a lack of connection.


Chaplains help make the transition smoother for all.