As a chaplain, how do you “see” what you are doing? This question came to me after I’d read a reflection about the ministry of spiritual direction by John Rackley passed to me by a CWC colleague. He wrote about this as
‘The task of the spiritual director is to be positioned, like a campfire in the wilderness, welcoming sojourners from all corners of life to stop, relax and yarn for a while.’
It’s an interesting image. It suggests hospitality, the provision of a place of welcome and safety. It suggests comfort in some sense, a place of warmth and rest. It suggests light in a setting where it is lacking, a place that provides guidance. It suggests a refuge, a place where I can be myself and sit back, relax and think over life.
It is arguable that many if not all of these could be applied to chaplaincy. Clearly what chaplaincy seeks to do is be a service. It focusses on those in the community it serves rather than any agendas of its own. So, it must discover what the needs are and that means hospitality and interest in those being served.
At the same time it is a spiritual service. That is not to say it ignores physical aspects of life because that is to misunderstand “spiritual” which takes seriously the integrated nature of our beings as physical, social, psychological and spiritual beings. It understands people to be more than their visible “substance” but values them as people with eternal significance given in their being created by a loving God.
So, how do we go about providing this in the working environment? Is there a physical place for hospitality, or is that simply in the person and availability of the chaplain? How can that be presented to the workforce?
The images we have been looking at all seem to imply some sedentary space. I wonder if a chaplain is much more of a “moving space” taking the gift of listening, compassion, availability and reflection to whoever needs/wants it? I certainly find this is true of the day chaplaincy work I undertake at Ely Cathedral. “Loitering with intent” and simply talking to people about what they are looking at, or passing a word with staff on my perambulations generates space for light and warmth, hopefully!
It would be helpful to know how you work this out in your own setting. Let us know! What’s your image of chaplaincy and how does it come to life for you? What you share will help others!