In the Christian calendar we have entered Lent when, traditionally, we are encouraged over the next 40 days to ‘give up’ something significant.
For many this will be, perhaps, giving up alcohol, cream cakes, chocolate or some such indulgence!
For others, this can be a time for contemplation and reflection – an escape from the everyday pressures and putting things into context.
The context for the period of Lent this year is one of upheaval, whether on a domestic or international front. The media is full of deeply worrying news on the war in Ukraine and on the successive earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. In terms of ‘giving up’ many, thank goodness, will be donating to charities that are providing much needed help and assistance. Long may that continue.
On the domestic scene, the cost of living crisis has created many opportunities for us to be involved in supporting individuals and local communities. Many churches, mosques and gurdwaras have had the opportunity of becoming “Community Hubs” during the Winter (and now into Spring) which has put congregations into contact with a whole range of guests/clients from an eclectic variety of backgrounds. To many of the volunteers who provide food, a listening ear and friendship in the Community Hubs, this experience has been a revelation. The stimulus for such hubs was initially to provide ‘warm spaces’ for folk who were struggling with the escalating fuel bills, and still that applies: however, volunteers discovered a whole range of unmet needs, where ‘signposting’ to help was what was needed. Now, with the infrastructure of the Community Hubs established, local and health authorities are attempting to extend the scope of the hubs to hosting ‘health awareness’ and routes to vaccination programmes for the ‘guest/client population’ that each hub has accrued.
This reminds me of the context in which chaplaincy typically operates. The workplace provides the context; the chaplain is the ‘volunteer’ – available, “loitering with intent” (!) as so often encapsulated; the workforce is the population with unmet needs, requiring friendship and a listening ear.
May this season of Lent be a blessing to those who give in time and resource; those who exercise their chaplaincy skills and also to those who receive the giving, listening and support.
Canon Professor Clive Morton OBE
Vice Chair CWC