Sharing the ‘charism of chaplaincy’ at new network for chaplains

Published: Wednesday December 6, 2023

Simon Witcombe

Chaplains are people who step out in faith to listen, show compassion and be alongside people in their joys, sadness and ordinary lives. Sometimes serving prisons, schools, hospitals or sports clubs, they represent God’s love to the people they find themselves among.

Whether lay or ordained, paid or voluntary, all chaplains are invited to a network meeting, which has been set up by the Revd Canon Simon Witcombe, Senior Chaplain, University of Gloucestershire.

Simon says, “I’ve been a Chaplain at the University of Gloucester for six years now. It’s a great role, very different from my previous life as a parish priest – and I love it. There are so many things that you could say about chaplaincy:

  • it’s a way of being with the 95% of people who don’t usually come to church
  • it’s a witness to the presence and the love of God ‘out there’ – where people meet, where they work, in places of need, in all sort of places
  • it gives us new opportunities to listen to people and to today’s culture.”

Sue Peat is a Methodist Deacon who has recently begun serving in Gloucester city centre as a chaplain. She said this about a recent encounter:

“On Monday this week, I went into one of the smaller shops in Gloucester city centre and a lady who had never really said much to me before came up to me and said, ‘Oh, I’m so glad you’re here today, I could really do with a chat.’ She was able to take a few minutes away from her work and have a coffee with me. She spoke about some major struggles she was having in her life at the moment. She said just having someone there to listen had really helped her. For me in that moment, it summed up the importance of two things in chaplaincy work – ‘being there’ and listening.”

There are a huge variety of chaplains in our diocese and county. As well as the better-known chaplaincies in hospitals, prisons, schools and universities, there are also waterways chaplains on the canals, racecourse chaplains, services and cadet chaplains, Anna chaplains working with older people, wellbeing chaplains, agricultural chaplains and many others.

Simon has created a network for all those who work in chaplaincy – lay and ordained, voluntary and paid, full time or just a couple of hours a week. The next meeting will be on Wednesday 31 January from 3.30pm to 5pm in the Chapel at Francis Close Hall Campus, Cheltenham. All those involved in chaplaincy of any kind are welcome to go along. This meeting will be joined by Mike Haslam, who is the Chaplaincy Development Advisor from Bath and Wells Diocese – Simon says he’s “a bit of a chaplaincy guru”. If you would like more information or to be added to the contact list, please email Simon on ku.ca1708624392.solg1708624392@ebmo1708624392ctiws1708624392.

Simon adds, “In the longer term, I would love to see us encouraging chaplaincy in many more areas – law courts, shopping centres, towns and villages, festivals, industrial sites – the possibilities are endless. And I also believe that in our churches there are many people who have the necessary gifts – the ‘charism of chaplaincy’. I hope that our new network will be a great encouragement to existing chaplains, and in the future it will become a springboard for the enabling, training and support of many more working in this wonderful ministry.”

If you are interested in becoming a chaplain, please speak with your Incumbent in the first instance.

The chaplaincy team at Gloucestershire Hospitals is running a training course for potential candidates to join the volunteer team, starting on 10 January, 9.15am – 12.30pm. For more information, visit: Hospital chaplaincy training course

 

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