Alton Webteam: January 2016
As the new boy on the block, this seems a good opportunity to introduce myself, and share some reflections. More importantly, I didn't think it fair to find a guest editor until I had tried it myself!
I'm Matthew Reed. I've worked on the development side of the Methodist Church, on and off, for 16 years, most recently as a Regional Learning & Development Officer in the Southern & Islands Region. Like many people in this area, I have been involved in starting or supporting a number of projects since then.
My role includes resourcing Chaplaincy and supporting Chaplaincy networks.
I had a very illuminating day at the Multi-faith Chaplaincy Conference organised by Peter Lumsden and Aiesha Banu from the Preston Faith Forum in November — thank you to them for an excellent event, on behalf of all those who attended. It was good to meet a wide range of practitioners and, especially, to watch chaplains from a range of different disciplines sharing their challenges and swapping ideas with each other. Among the interesting contributions was this simple and effective summary of his work, by Steve Cowles, one of the chaplains to the Lancashire Constabulary:
Hear them out (let them speak it through, shout it if necessary),
Encourage them (specially to let off steam, or make changes),
Lighten their load (do something for them, or help them shed something),
Person valuing (let them know they are worth it!).
We would really appreciate hearing from practitioners who have an idea like this, a story to share, a project to show us, or an issue that needs exploring. So email us on firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas, requests, and articles — on anything that you think others might find useful, or if you would like to hear how others tackle an issue. It was clear from the conference that humour is a major part of the coping mechanism in many situations, so we would even welcome (appropriate) jokes or humorous anecdotes.
Care for chaplains
One common concern shared by many attending the day was the lack of pastoral care for the chaplains themselves. Most had no formal support, while those that had supervision structures were unsure how supportive they could be on a personal level. While there is no universal good practice, it seems that a small support group is one of the best options; with people who can be trusted and, importantly, are not part of the management structure for the role in question. It can be quite an informal group, and doesn't need to meet formally. Some of the discussion at the conference underlined how it is important that time is taken to build these supportive relationships during the good times, and not to leave until a crisis hits. To be really useful, support needs to be a continuous relationship, and not a safety net: a crisis is not a time to build a relationship from scratch.
And crises do come...
As one attendee in Preston put it "we are expected to be Teflon coated, but some things always stick", and another commented "in the end, we are all bin men!" Perhaps this emphasises once more the need to build relationships before things go critical, but there will always be an element of crisis response to most chaplaincy roles.
Editor: Matthew Reed,
Church & Community Development Officer,
with responsibility for Chaplaincy Everywhere and general chaplaincy matters.
Discipleship and Ministries Learning Network
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