More in store for chaplain Jeff
By ANTHONY CASTLE
The Salvation Army provides material and physical support in a range of ways but also provides spiritual support through its chaplaincy services.
Chaplains minister in different environments throughout Australia and provide pastoral care and practical support to staff, volunteers and community members.
Major Jeff Waller is a chaplain with Salvos Stores, offering care and support across South Australia in this role for the past four years.
“I visit the stores and connect with staff and volunteers in each location,” says Jeff. “I visit rural stores about three times a year, and more if needed. If a store wants me, I can be there the next day. The main thing is being able to present a safe and confidential space. While many of our stores are passionate about The Salvation Army and raise funds to do the work, I’m able to bring support and care for them.”
Jeff started his working life as a tradesperson. Originally from Waverley Temple Corps in Melbourne, he became a Salvation Army officer and served in places like Greenwith, Campbelltown, Bendigo and Mildura.
“I’ve been an officer for 25 years, but I was a boilermaker and a welder for about 10 years,” Jeff explains. “As a young guy growing up in the church, I had a sense of calling. Probably like anyone, I wrestled with it. Those years in a trade allowed me to grow up, though, to work with diverse people and that life experience was foundational.”
Chaplaincy is a free and confidential service, and chaplains are listeners who respect the cultures and religious traditions of those who seek help. Jeff oversees 43 Salvos Stores across South Australia, connecting with people from the metro region to places like Whyalla to Mount Gambier.
“I’m providing pastoral care and support to the stores, doing everything we can to get broader information out there,” Jeff says. “I make our store customers and staff aware of what the local Salvation Army offers and advocate for the services in corps and social. We can be a conduit, sending people along to kids club, companion club, parenting programs, Doorways, youth homelessness – all the various ministries and services that corps offer.”
In addition to supporting stores, chaplains can support Salvos Stores personnel, including HR, administration staff, area managers, and warehouse and logistics staff.
“Our managers can have conversations with their staff, but that isn’t always easy when it comes to significant pastoral care,” Jeff explains. “When you’re running a retail store with a team of 30-40 volunteers, it makes a huge difference for the manager to be able to hand a person over to me to provide pastoral care and support.”
The role of a chaplain is quite broad and varied, and services may include pastoral care, advocacy, counselling, spiritual guidance, or whatever assistance people might need.
“There was a teenager who came into one store, a volunteer who wasn’t travelling well and couldn’t afford his medication,” Jeff explains. “It was a simple prescription, so the store manager and myself assisted him in getting it filled. Within a fortnight, there was a radical transformation in this guy’s wellbeing. When his pushbike was stolen, half a dozen of us at the store chipped in and got him a bike and a helmet.”
While Salvos Stores chaplains build functional relationships with The Salvation Army’s social programs and corps centres, community engagement is an integral part of the mission, with many opportunities to do much more than refer to services.
“For that young man, to face those challenges, it was the end of the world,” Jeff explains. “But the change we’ve seen in his headspace has been huge. He’s really turned a corner. The store has been able to meet him where he’s at, with a transformation as real as any you can see in a church. The store is much more than just a store.”