"I am blessed everyday by the staff and residents who I get to meet": meet Bethanie Chaplain, Sharon Bywater.
Here, we chat with Sharon Bywaters, Chaplain for Bethanie’s Perth-metro Social Housing, Bethanie Joondanna Aged Care Home and Bethanie Joondanna Retirement Village.
Sharon, why don’t you introduce yourself to the wider Bethanie community?
Sure, my name is Sharon Bywaters and before becoming a Chaplain with Bethanie, I was a Minister with the Salvation Army for 11 years. In this role I had the opportunity to work in Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Prior to that, I worked as a qualified childcare worker and worked in that field for 12 years.
I am currently also a foster mummy and care for children who need a safe and loving place to live. I have been a foster carer for five years now and really enjoy it. I am not married, but I have a very close family that consists of my mum, dad, younger sister, brother-in-law, baby brother and his fiancé. Growing up, we lived in Perth, Boyup Brook, Geraldton and then back in Perth. I love to do quilting; machine embroidery and hand embroidery, and I attend the Centrepoint Church in Byford.
What prompted you to become a Chaplain at Bethanie?
I became a Chaplain at Bethanie because God called me to. When I contacted David, I didn't really know what Bethanie was about - or even if they needed Chaplains. So, it was led by God and I was excited by the opportunity from the very start.
What do you find the most rewarding about your role as a Chaplain?
I was so excited to be given the opportunity to be a Chaplain at Bethanie. I am blessed everyday by the staff and residents who I get to meet. The most rewarding thing about my job is meeting so many residents and staff and sharing my faith in God through my actions and words.
Some residents don't want to talk about God and I find it great that I can go and sit with them and talk about family, friends and football - or whatever they would like to talk about. For me, my ministry here is about life and showing people what life is like with God and how much God loves each and every person. It is also a privilege to journey with people who are nearing the end of life and just being there with the residents and families as they walk that journey.
What piece of advice do you frequently give to customers/staff/family members?
Over the year that has just been, I’ve found the reoccurring theme to be that ‘you are not alone’. There is always someone that cares about you. Whether that be family, friends, the Bethanie community, me or most importantly, God. In the Bethanie sites I work in, I have been very inspired by the way residents care for each other – I love being able to encourage and foster this culture.
Is there a particular story or experience that has made you realise the impact of your work?
Before COVID-19, there were a few residents who didn't want to connect with me as the Chaplain for various reasons - which of course are all respected. But since I’ve been able to visit again, most of them have been very welcoming. We have made some fantastic connections.
There isn’t one story in particular, but there have been quite a few occasions where residents have thanked me turning up when I did, as they were struggling with something in that very moment. My visits to Social Housing are sporadic, so I can confidently say that God had planned for me to be there at that time to help those who needed my support.