‘It’s been an honour’: Great Ormond Street chaplain leaves role after 17 years

Jim Linthicum has worked at the Great Ormond Street hospital chapel for 17 years  ( Daniel Keane)
Jim Linthicum has worked at the Great Ormond Street hospital chapel for 17 years ( Daniel Keane)

The senior chaplain at the Great Ormond Street Hospital has left his role after 17 years, saying it was an “honour” to help hundreds of sick children and their loved ones.

Jim Linthicum has been at the side of patients and families at St Christopher’s Chapel of the iconic children’s hospital to deliver blessings and support for 17 years, regardless of their faith.

The Grade-II chapel, built between 1871 and 1876, was once described by Oscar Wilde as “the most delightful private chapel in the country”.

It has been designed with children in mind: along the rear of the chapel sits a row of teddy bears provided by patients, while a prayer tree offers messages of hope and support.

Great Ormond Street, in Holborn, is a world-renowned children’s hospital though half of its patients are referred from outside London. It provides care for children with rare illnesses while also carrying out research.

Speaking to the Standard in his last day in the role on Friday, Mr Linthicum said he felt “very sad” to be leaving the hospital.

“I am excited about my new role in Rome, but it won’t be anything like this. Here, people share their deepest stories with me and that is such an honour.

“So many patients have thanked me and told me my work has helped them. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.”

St Christopher’s Chapel at Great Ormond Street Hospital (Daniel Keane)
St Christopher’s Chapel at Great Ormond Street Hospital (Daniel Keane)

Jim, from Baltimore, moved to the UK in 1992 and served his first full-time healthcare chaplaincy post at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust.

He went on to work for Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust before taking on the role at Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2006. As head of the chaplaincy service, Jim manages a team which consists of staff from the Church of England, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, Islam and the Greek Orthodox Church.

There is always a member of staff available in the chapel, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Jim said the chapel was a “haven” for sick children and their families at the most difficult time in their lives.

“It is a liminal space - the barrier between the spiritual and the material is not as defined,” he added.

Asked which moments had particularly moved him during his tenure, he said: “There was one child I was close to who passed away and we later conducted a carol service for them.

“At the chapel the family had brought their cuddly toy, a bunny with floppy ears. I have never cried publicly in 17 years but seeing it just floored me. I looked at it and thought about all the little children’s bunnies that had gone home, and those that didn’t.”

But Jim said that the job also has “euphoric moments”, adding: “Seeing the children go home and get better is amazing. And so many families keep in touch.”

Jim will join the Anglican Centre in Rome as an Associate Priest later this month but admitted that he will miss the UK.

“I’ve wanted to move to the UK since I was seven. I started reading Dickens and my dad was an Anglophile. I fell in love with this place. Now I still feel its my spiritual home.”