FROM sharing the joy of a birth or a recovery, to being alongside those suffering or at the end of their lives, the vital work of hospital chaplaincy is vividly described in a new book.

In The Midst Of Life is a series of stories and reflections on ministry in the NHS by Rev Michael Marsden, who has served as a hospital chaplain in Wales for three decades.

It has been described by former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, as “moving, compelling and humane”.

Rev Marsden describes his encounters with patients and their families and also the hospital staff – the doctors, nurses, the cleaners and house-keepers.

From his years of ward rounds and running the hospital chapel, he offers advice on how to visit sick people and how to be aware of their fears and worries.


He writes candidly about when it is appropriate for him to offer pastoral ministry – simply ‘being alongside’ someone – or sacramental ministry – celebrating Holy Communion with them.

Each chapter of the book begins with a passage of scripture and ends with a prayer.

The final chapter is devoted to how Rev Marsden's ministry has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic

Currently working at the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, Rev Marsden said: “Sickness is no respecter of time, person or place – it involves all of us at some point in our lives.

"Writing about the unavoidable phenomena we call death is never easy and I hope some of the stories will make people laugh as well as weep, and in some small way I hope the book encourages people to do both.”

In his foreword to the book, Dr Rowan Williams, said: “One thing we are all going to remember from the immense strains and challenges of the pandemic is the new appreciation of the business like, day-to-day heroism of health care professionals.

"I can’t think of another book that so beautifully sums up the vocation of a hospital chaplain, with a wealth of invaluable quotation and reflection.”