I have been the Workplace Chaplain at Swiss Laundry for just over a year. Although it is called Swiss Laundry, it has noting to do with Switzerland. Swiss was the finish given to table linen and they have been in business when Swiss was used! I thought that I might be able to get the family washing done – on the cheap. No way as the laundry deals with hotel linen, hospital linen, including towels and the machines are huge with huge bags of dirty and clean washing going overhead on automated systems.
I started just after the really hot weather last summer (2022), and with some trepidation I entered the laundry. Going downstairs to the laundry machines and automatic irons and folders, the heat increased and my unease increased along with the noise of the machines. How would I be received? Would I be able to carry out the tasks of a Workplace Chaplain?
I found out I had little to fear. After I had explained who I was, or what I am now, they seemed to accept it, as they had previously had a Workplace Chaplain who had retired. What I said had to be translated for some of the people there, not because of my Essex accent but because their English was not too strong.
I have found them to be a friendly group of many different nationalities and this enriches the regular trips I make to the Laundry. It took time for people to stop and talk, or in the case of some areas, carry on working and talk, but more talk now happens. Do we talk about deep issues? Occasionally, such as the loss of a wife, or the loss of an employee who suffered a heart attack. However, most of the time this year I have used it as a getting to know them and they, me. It seems to be working and so I am being told more and more by the people who work there.
What training did I have? None really, although I was a Baptist minister for over 30 years which I felt has given me a good grounding for chaplaincy. We all have our ups and downs and I have seen a couple of downs. As for ups it has been talk of a wedding, becoming grandparents again and such like.
I did not know I would find it so stimulating and enjoyable.
Rev Richard Owen