Earlier this year, our Circuit held a workshop led by Rev Robert Jones, to help us understand more about the role of a chaplain. Chaplaincy is already well established in the Forces, in education and young people's work, in hospitals, hospices and care homes, in agriculture, in prisons or in civic life. In more recent years there has been a growth in chaplaincy in shopping centres and businesses and in other work places.
So what is a chaplain?
A chaplain offers a visible Christian presence, interacting with people in the community or in the workplace and is someone who goes out to where people are, to listen, to be alongside, to be a guest not a host. Chaplaincy is not about "gathering in" — inviting people to "join us" — but more about "going out", reflecting the ministry of Jesus who went out to minister wherever people were and he sent out his disciples to go and do the same.
A chaplain is available to those with faith and those who don't profess faith. Their role is not to preach but to listen and respond and if invited to do so, discuss their Christian faith.
Our vision — of providing chaplains where people live rather than where they work — seems to be new. Working collaboratively with other churches, we seek to offer chaplaincy in new housing areas. Our focus has been on Great Western Park (GWP), the first and most advanced of the major developments planned in our Circuit. Here, we build relationships and complement other Christian initiatives, such as the flourishing community café and Rev Mark Bodeker's work establishing a new Anglican church, based at the UTC college.
We recruited two part-time community chaplains, Sarah Ifill and Libby Hawkness-Smith, in April and they started work at Great Western Park in May.
As their mobile base and visible presence, they use a small motorhome, christened "Hope" and blessed at the Circuit service where the Chaplains were commissioned in July. "Hope" stands out with its new logo, designed by Tom Atkinson, a Didcot Methodist member.
Look out for "Hope", and Libby and Sarah, on GWP now!