Spring is a time for renewal and in that spirit a group of budding chaplains from Ministry@Work climbed to the giddy heights of the YMCA Sky Room with Mo to start our Chaplaincy Everywhere training.
We began by asking ourselves what we understood by Chaplaincy. To some it’s a word which has no meaning or resonance, something “other” – e.g. if coming from a background unfamiliar with church. To others, it conjures up images of chaplains in particular settings: hospital, prison, the army, and sometimes in industry (usually in a large factory).
For Ministry@Work, with a mission to be Christ’s loving presence in business across Staffordshire, we reflected on our need to be flexible in our approach and our language, to meet people where they are at, on their terms and in their language. Indeed, as a group, we spend our week in diverse settings, from being embedded in a large organisation, to working as a small business, meeting lots of different clients and contacts.
Like many a sermon, we had 3 parts to the first day’s training: looking in turn at God as Creator and our creative role, Christ in the world and our part expression of that, and the ways that the Holy Spirit can enable mission through chaplaincy.
In looking at God as Creator, we reflected on how we have different gifts and may be called upon to work outside our comfort zone, or with people whom we are called to love (but really can’t stand!), bringing people together in community, when perhaps the work situation is divisive. There were many stories of brutal or bullying workplaces. It can seem hard to be creative. Yet, as Barbara said, “managing people’s humanity is a creative act”.
Looking at the qualities of Jesus, our favourite stories about His life and work, we then focussed on the meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well, how Christ reaches out to all, reaching beyond whatever barriers we, they or society may put up to each other and to God, offering the refreshment (“living water”), which may be lacking in daily life. We acknowledged how ministry can be in how we are, bringing “grace and peace” to work (Mark reminding us of St Paul’s greeting), listening, offering our presence, when sometimes there is no answer to hand. Some of us felt the need for more time to reflect on how, when asked, we might express our testimony in a way, which would encourage a colleague or work contact and arouse more interest.
Lastly, in looking at the role of the Holy Spirit, we reflected on what it is to be called. Do we know or feel it? How do we discern that? (Something I struggle with.) Do we run away from it? (Graham reminded us we can be aware we are being called, but not want to respond.) Do we sometimes do a job, because it needs doing, being perhaps sent to do it, without feeling a calling? Sharing examples from different workplaces we looked at servant leadership. And we live in the “now and not yet”, or to put it another way, as Jonathan helpfully offered, from the perspective of eternity. Mo encouraged us of the immense hope we can bring to those we spend time with at or through work, by offering this wider perspective, the “wow factor” of remembering the immensity of space, the complexity even of a single cell in our body, and the promise that God knows and loves each of us intimately.
So, we went away, blessed, fed (spiritually as well as by Mo’s splendid picnic) and encouraged, looking forward to the rest of the training.”