Other Lynn

Sharing the Christian Faith through Listening and Presence in Workplaces and Schools in the UK

Hello everyone.  My name is Lynn and I am a Reader in the Church of England.  This means that I am a trained lay-person who has responsibilities in my local church for pastoral care and teaching.

Thank you so much for the invitation to speak to you at this marvellous conference.  I came to your city for the first time in May of this year as part of a group of Christians from the Diocese of Lichfield.  We came to Moscow with our Bishop on Pilgrimage and I bring with me warm Christian greetings from Bishop Michael of Lichfield and other friends in the Diocese of Lichfield.

During our stay we met with different groups of Christians, including some of you from the Metropolitan Anthony Foundation.  It was such a joy when we received the invitation to come and participate in this conference and to have the excuse to return to this beautiful city so very soon after my first visit.

I had not known about Metropolitan Anthony before my visit in May but I have been reading his books and sermons and have learnt so much from them.  He had a truly amazing ability to speak to all kinds of people – clergy and lay – Orthodox and non-Orthodox – and Christians and non-Christians. It’s a rare gift and one which we need today.
Our society in the UK is becoming more and more secular with increasing numbers leaving the church or not joining in the first place.  So it’s a priority to find ways of bringing Christ to those who know little about the church.  It’s still a surprise when groups of schoolchildren visit a church and we find out that for many it’s the first time they have ever been inside a church building.

I’d like to think more about this part of Metropolitan Anthony’s ministry – to those outside the church – and to ask about your ideas and experiences.  So I will talk for approximately half my allotted time, then pose some questions that I hope will generate conversations between us all, as I appreciate we come from differing contexts and cultures and there might be elements of my talk that are new.  However, we are all pilgrims together and I look forward to learning more from our discussions.

I’m a member of my local church and take part in its ministry.  But I’m also a chaplain at a school.   Chaplaincy – it’s something for all of us – I think that may be why our Bishop suggested I come to give this talk because he wants us to recognise that we all can have a role as chaplains, and people like me can help others to become good chaplains at work, school, hospital, prisons and other workplaces.

So it is a lay ministry.  Of course some chaplains in the Church of England are ordained priests, but they don’t have to be.

I am delighted by the fact that in 1948, Metropolitan Anthony was ordained to the presbyterate and sent to Britain to serve as Orthodox Christian chaplain of the Fellowship of Saint Alban and Saint Sergius, a society established to foster understanding and friendship between the Russian Orthodox and Anglican churches.  This desire for understanding and friendship remains and I am thrilled to be a small part of this, thank you!

What is chaplaincy?

Chaplaincy is part of the life of the local church, described by one author as “dispersed church.”[1] Metropolitan Anthony says “the Apostles did not stay cooped up together, but parted from one another to bring the Good News to those who sat in darkness.  Though distant from each other, they knew that they were one because they all were in Christ and doing the work he had sent them to do.”[2] The purpose of Chaplaincy is primarily to reach people who would never go to church.  Chaplains operate in non-church contexts and engage with people where they are and on their terms whereas church invites people to come to it and engage on its terms.  It is a response “to the perennial missionary task … to proclaim the gospel afresh in a contemporary context.”[3]  It is seen by some as being located within missio dei theology[4] and it is part of the church’s commitment to “work for greater social, political and economic well-being as well as to proclaim the gospel in word and sacrament.”[5]

Missio Dei is an old Latin term meaning ‘mission of God’ or the ‘sending of God’, which refers to God’s great mission to restore humanity to himself (by sending Jesus) and his call to us, his Church, to take part in that mission.  We may be familiar with the ‘Great Commission’; the command of Jesus telling us to ‘go into all the world…’  Go into the world, not over-to the world.  That means our call is to live ‘on mission’ and take the message of Jesus into workplaces, conversations, schools, prisons, families and cultures, not just other countries[6].  Rowan Williams said its about ‘seeing where God is at work and joining in’

Reverend Bill Mash heads the Black Country Urban Industrial Mission, within the Diocese of Lichfield, which is involved with training and deploying chaplains, of all denominations both lay and ordained.  He recently wrote: “all too often the church has had a low view of the value of people’s working lives.  The impression grew that what really mattered was what people did for the church, and “vocation” came to be associated with becoming a minister.  Industrial chaplaincy in the UK began after the Second World War as one way of correcting this, with chaplains, usually clergy, beginning to visit workplaces.”[7]  Metropolitan Anthony says our vocation is that we are “ called to be one with God […] we are what Christ was – not to perfection, but to a sufficient degree, like a spark, like a very quiet light and not like the light of noonday, we are this presence, we are a continuous incarnation.”[8]

“Chaplains today are alongside people at work, supporting them in difficulties and encouraging Christians in their discipleship.  They trace signs of God’s presence in the workplace and can offer the insights and understanding gained there to the wider church.  There may be opportunities to contribute a biblically formed perspective on issues that arise and on the value of the people who are employed.”[9]

Personal Experiences of Chaplaincy

My personal journey into chaplaincy began a year ago.   When through conversations with our local High School, Kinver High School, which teaches pupils aged 11 to 18, our church was invited to put together a team of volunteer chaplains who would go into School one lunchtime per week.  Six volunteers, three women and three men, formed the new School Chaplaincy Team.  Each of us felt personally called to the role in different ways and have been commissioned by our church; ‘sent out’ to carry out the work of chaplaincy.

My only experience of dealing with these age groups is through bringing up my own children as a full-time mother over a span of 30 years.  I am motivated by the opportunity to take my faith away from the church building and confines of Sunday services to live out my faith alongside pupils and staff; by companioning them as they journey, building strong relationships, trust and empathy.  I believe God created us to form deep connections, with others and with God.  I hope to be a listening presence, non-judgmental and open-minded; to bring Christ in me to others by using the opportunity to stand in the gap between the secular world of school and the world of faith.  Metropolitan Anthony said “sometimes we are afraid to listen carefully when a person speaks, because to hear means to respond, and not only for a moment with a passing thought when the heart is stirred, but for always, as Christ responded to human sorrow and the horror of godlessness and became man for ever.”[10]  To be a listening presence is an undertaking that requires us to overcome the fear of what might be demanded from us.  But I must echo Metropolitan Anthony when he wrote “in all cases, there are two focal points for me: my heart and their heart.  My humanity which is to a certain extent, however little, integrated to Christ’s humanity, and their humanity which is integrated also in part of Christ’s humanity.  We meet in real humanity, simply.”[11]

Children and young people are bombarded by unrelenting images and words on social media and on TV that draw them only into a world that will consume them.  Lives have become isolated and solitary, yet exposed to scrutiny from every angle.  Yet young people are concerned with much more than social media; they are concerned about the far-reaching questions about life; the world and the environment; war, poverty and disasters, both natural and human.  Chaplains are uniquely placed to help them find stability in a crazy world.  Young people navigating the stormy waters of adolescence need the whole church community to be engaging with the social conditions affecting and confronting them and the issue of identity is often confusing, uncertain and sometimes even threatening.  There is opportunity to point towards a true identity, mindfully caring for those who have faith, those who have a different faith and those who have no faith.  Garry Swinton writes that “some may be injured in some way and, together with the school, the chaplain must bring the injured for healing.  […]  The chaplain must also be able to show that God affirms life and has a sense of humour.”[12]  A vital ingredient when dealing with teenagers!

We visit the school one lunchtime a week, in pairs, wearing hoodies and t-shirts bearing the title ‘Chaplain’, each with our name on the sleeve.   We encounter the curious, the silly and the challenging, whilst paying attention to the isolated and anxious.

Slowly we are becoming part of the fabric of the school; there is a prayer box in reception for prayer requests and we have been invited to take part in an assembly at the beginning of the new school year.  As chaplains, we are invited guests, we are welcomed and appreciated by pupils and staff alike and an increasing number of pupils approach now us for a chat on a regular basis.  Conversations have begun to open up, sometimes leading to shared confidences and tentative questions about faith.  New opportunities are arising; for example we are offering support by conducting mock job interviews to the 15/16 year olds.   Some weeks ago, the chaplains were called in to assist at another school in the area when there had been a pupil suicide.  They were called to offer support and care at a traumatic time for all touched by the tragedy.  It is at these moments when the ministry of chaplains becomes most apparent and needed.  They are perceived as the best equipped to face the critical situation as they hold shock and grief for others, something which is both challenging and exhausting.

Within a few weeks of commencing chaplaincy at the High School, we were contacted by another chaplain from a different school within the Academy of six schools of which Kinver High School is a part.  We have since met up, exchanged experiences and begun training together to deepen our understanding of our roles.  Almost straight away we became part of a larger dynamic picture.  It is exciting to be part of what has been called ‘the ultimate responsive ministry’ which can react quickly to situations with integrity and wisdom and to witness its’ continuing growth.


Should chaplaincy be carried out by clergy or laity?

What are we trying to do in chaplaincy?

Where can we do chaplaincy best?   And how can we do it?

How does chaplaincy relate to church?  Should we be trying to persuade people we meet to come to church?

[1] Victoria Slater, Chaplaincy Ministry and the Mission of the Church, (Norwich: SCM Press, 2015), 90.

[2] Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh. The Living Body of Christ, p. 185.

[3] Victoria Slater, Chaplaincy Ministry and the Mission of the Church, (Norwich: SCM Press, 2015), 81.

[4] Ibid, 82 and Chaplaincy Everywhere, (The Methodist Church), http://www.methodist.org.uk/mission/chaplaincy/chaplaincy-everywhere/the-chaplaincy-everywhere-course

[5] Giles Legood, (ed.), Chaplaincy The Church’s Sector Ministries. (London: Cassell, 1999), 5.

[6] Reuben Skewes, December 19, 2017.  https://thejourney.yesheis.com/missio-dei-life-on-mission-1296e4ac09be

[7] Bill Mash, BCUIM Annual Report for the year ending 31 March 2019, 4.

[8] Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh. The Living Body of Christ, 44.

[9] Bill Mash, BCUIM Annual Report for the year ending 31 March 2019, 4.

[10]  Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh. On Listening. February, 4. 1973. Unpublished

[11] Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh. Interview with Emilio Castri. International Review of Mission. 1974. N. 249. P. 87-95.

[12] Swinton, Garry in ‘Being a Chaplain’, Threlfall-Holmes, Miranda  and Newitt, Mark,  SPCK Publishing Ltd, 2011, p.19