Grahame's devout service

Grahame Holstein pioneered, coordinated and at times conducted the Sunday church services for over 30 years at the former aged care facility in Gloucester.
Grahame Holstein pioneered, coordinated and at times conducted the Sunday church services for over 30 years at the former aged care facility in Gloucester.

A tribute to Grahame Holstein OAM and the Sunday church services held for over 30 years at the former aged care facilities annexed to Gloucester Soldiers' Memorial Hospital.

When COVID restrictions commenced in March 2020, the final service had been held and no further service could be held prior to the transfer of residents to the new Anglican Care nursing home in October 2020. From that date Anglican Care became responsible for future services.

In the 1970s, Grahame visited people he knew in hospital. One night after attending a hospital board meeting, he realised that nobody was visiting the wards. So he decided to visit patients weekly. The Sunday church service ministry developed from his care of those in hospital whom he considered part of his extended family.

Grahame pioneered, coordinated and at times conducted the services for over 30 years, by his reckoning, since at least 1989, which was the oldest roster he could find. Grahame rostered all the Christian churches, each taking in turn to run the service, and would conduct the service when a church appointee could not come. The services meant a great deal to many residents.

A highlight was the lively singing of hymns which a times attracted guest singers, organists, keyboard and aficionados with all present joining in on the singing. Guest artists included singers Elona Holstein, Brian Murray, Jo-anne Low, Helen Parsons, Barbara Mansfield, Judy Ingram, Dot Gresham, Ruth Moore, June Nelson. Claire Reynolds recited poetry while Mike Toshack, Robyn Atkinson, Helen Stevens and Tom de Witte of trombone-fame were among those who played musical instruments. Helen Parsons played the music for many years and with others, including Ruth Boorer, periodically assisted residents at the services. Grahame remembers a humorous incident when a resident with dementia replaced the scheduled organist and played dance music rather than hymns. Unable to stop her, dancing became that Sunday's service.

Grahame said the hospital staff were always very cooperative and appreciative. He recalls being apprehensive at the initial service because of a duty nurse's stern facial expressions. Grahame was delighted when the singing started and the nurse joined and sang every hymn with gusto.

Sunday after Sunday Grahame would arrive early and wheel people to the service. He would then sit next to those who could no longer read well and help them with the words to sing. After the service, he would distribute chocolate and confectionery. Grahame's ministry was a great blessing to the aged care residents and to patients at the hospital.