Seeking Validation at Work

By Revd. Mary Hanna, CWC
 
It is a basic need for all of us in the workplace that we feel appreciated for what we do. Much stress at work arises out of staff feeling undervalued leading to a belief that what they do is of no importance. This affects self -worth and ultimately well-being.
 
As I reflect on the role of chaplains in the workplace, I am aware of how small our presence is in relation to the size of the organisations which host us. Our role is unique but frequently not well understood in the secular environment of the workplace. Chaplains too needs to feel validated in their role, to feel part of a wider team with all the social and psychological benefits that this confers. There are advantages for chaplains ‘working on the edges and margins’, to quote Woodward, but this can also be a lonely place to reside. So how do we ensure our role is understood and that our value is recognised?
 
Whenever possible we should link into our organisation’s human resources and wellbeing support services in order that our presence is highlighted and our roles and the benefits, we can confer to the workplace are better understood. Having a visible presence amongst staff and patients/service users will help ensure that we are in tune with changes and concerns ad that we are accessible.
 
 Of equal importance is to make opportunities to meet up with fellow chaplains in order to offer mutual support and to learn from one another. There are also numerous training and meetings where links can be established with colleagues. For those working in healthcare, the College of Health care Chaplains (CHCC) offers membership, courses and journals. There is also an annual 2/3-day conference: www.healthcarechaplains.org
For those working in mental health, there is the National Spirituality and Mental health Forum (NSMHF) for all practitioners and service users. www.spiritualitymentalhealth.org
 
Locally Cambridgeshire Workplace chaplaincy offers a monthly opportunity via zoom to link in with us and other chaplains. (See the link below in our newsletter). Your feedback as to how we can best support you will be invaluable to us in seeing to meet your needs.  
 
Revd. Mary Hanna, Trustee, CWC

Unconditional Support

By Revd. Michael Page CWC
 
A few days ago I was involved, on behalf of a charity where I am a trustee, in a conversation with another charity. The conversation was about looking at ways of working together in order to operate more efficiently for the benefit of those we all want to help. The sticking point was around the fact that the charity I represented has a faith basis whilst the other one is strongly secular.

We went back and forth for some time trying to understand where each side was finding difficulty until it dawned on me that our friends were concerned that our faith basis meant that our goal was getting others to adopt our way of believing, whereas we saw our faith basis as simply being the reason why we wanted to offer help. Once we were able to reassure them on that point, and by changing a couple of words in a draft statement of intest, we rapidly made progress.

When I was working as a prison chaplain I would occasionally be rebuffed with something along the lines of: “I’m not interested in religion” (although the words were not usually as mild as that!). I would then explain that my role was mainly about making sure that a person was OK and that they knew how to make contact with family or gain access to healthcare or were not retreating into themselves or any of the host of challenges that somebody serving a prison sentence might face during their time inside.

Even though I didn’t wear a clerical collar or any of the other external signs of the clergy, it was the very name ‘chaplain’ that created a barrier towards understanding the kind of support I might be able to offer.

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare wrote “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” And the question I have been asking myself is whether ‘chaplain’ is a helpful title to give to the people who carry out the broad sweep of supportive work that we know chaplains are often engaged in?

Over recent years I have heard of a number of organisations in the public sector and the business world that have dismissed or rejected support or services from any group that seems to have a faith dimension at its heart. What has happened to have caused those organisations to have such a negative response to any offers to help?

Whilst there may be all sorts of reasons for such a response, perhaps – just like the conversation I described – at the heart of the problem is the mismatch between perception and reality. We say: “We’re the church – or mosque or gudwara or temple – and we’d like to help.” They hear: “We’re the, whatever, and in exchange for some support we want you to adopt our beliefs.”

Somehow, we have to demonstrate that our support and help is unconditional. At the height of the pandemic, people of goodwill – of all faiths, and none – freely offered all sorts of help as a gift to their neighbours. And that help was gratefully received.

As a nation, we are in the middle of preparations for Christmas. The reality of Christmas can be very different from the way it might be presented in tv adverts or glossy magazines. For some, it’s an opportunity to meet with friends and family; for others, Christmas underlines their sense of loneliness. For some, it’s an excuse to indulge to excess, for others the empty cupboard has an even hollower echo.

For some, there will be gifts galore, for others there will be nothing,
For the Christian, the season of Advent has just started. It is also about preparing for Christmas. But this preparation is not about frantic buying and overindulging. Rather it is about expectant waiting. Waiting for a gift. We don’t know what the gift will truly look like nor how it will affect us. But it will be freely offered, with no strings attached.

As people of faith, and in our roles as chaplains, we have a part to play in sharing this gift – of a full and worthwhile life – with those around us, freely, unconditionally, with no expectation of any reward for doing so. There may be difficulties, people may misunderstand our motives. But let’s not be discouraged.

May this Christmas time present an opportunity to draw a challenging year to an end and space to anticipate what lies before you.
 
Revd. Michael Page, Trustee, CWC

Changing Values

By Jane Thompson CWC
 
Reading the news in the last week or so it seems to me that the fallout from the pandemic is starting to show very clearly in people’s shift in values. 

A recent article I read really brought this home to me, with an article stating 16 million workers plan to change jobs in the next six months. The number one reason behind this statistic? More than half, or 59%, of workers say their mental health is driving them to change jobs. Over half the workforce (51%) feels they are less than a month away from burnout.

Although a small sample of the population, I imagine this statistic is a good indication of general feelings in the workforce right now. It is an Employee’s market – people up and down the country are demanding flexible working (in the varying forms this can take). This is worrying times for Businesses and HR Managers as they battle to recruit good staff on one hand but equally on the other hand are trying to reassure and support existing staff during the pandemic.

The current change in values and work-life balance can be summed up in this conversation I overheard this week between two parents;

Parent 1: ‘So are you not missing the International Travel?’

Parent 2: ‘Not really to be honest! We have all adapted, it is a more balanced life now between work and home life. I am home and part of our family routine more and it suits all of us much better – why would I want to adapt again? I would lose the new habits and go back to how things were, which wouldn’t be a positive move at all – things are so much better nowadays’.

The data makes this even more pertinent; earlier this year the Health and Safety Executive published research which found 43% of all sick days are taken now due to work-related stress and burnout.

This must be the wake up call to all of us – employers, business owners, managers and employees; we all have to take health and wellbeing seriously, not just as a basic human function

Humans and Resilience

By Alastair Reid, CWC
 
Apparently September has been one of the warmest since records began, thank goodness after a disappointing August. Now we’re dealing with the stark complications caused by political dogma and intransigence in dealing with, among other issues, the supply chain.

I spoke about pressure and stress last time, pressure and stress are part of the human condition. Where these cause issues are where we don’t have the available resources to enable us to cope.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has caused /revealed mental health issues in an unusually stark way. Thank goodness we, as a culture, are beginning to be more comfortable in talking about this, I say beginning advisedly, as we have millennia of prejudicial attitudes to overcome.

Humanity is essentially a resilient and creative species, a species that wouldn’t be populating the planet otherwise. Homo Sapiens have evolved over millions of years, adjusting with the planet as it evolved, working out the best ways of surviving on a day to day basis. It could be argued that the rate of change has accelerated during the last two hundred years or so, however, this outline form of change shouldn’t be confused with evolution. Perhaps a better word might be development – this development being very location specific.

We may be developed in many ways, however, humanity is relatively undeveloped when considering its response ability to some events, especially when these are threatening, especially life/species threatening. The essential life preserving response mechanisms are, for want of a better word, basic and  are dependent for effectiveness on many factors, such as needing good physical and mental health and needing resilience.

In the developed state which I’ve tried to describe, humanity has needed other response mechanisms, and the pandemic has exposed/highlighted mental health issues and consequences. Recognising and learning how to create resilience has only recently started to be discussed. It is important the two are not confused.

How does this translate into our work supporting the Workplace? It’s important we recognise and understand the difficulties and consequences that have and are being experienced and how and where we can be most effective.

We’re in direct contact with employees, employers and the self employed. We hear their concerns, we hear about when they can’t cope, we hear about when they collapse as a result of the pressures they have experienced. Fortunately, due to this more open culture, more personal accounts and honesty about health – much more than in the recent past where most of this would never have been admitted. Progress has been made but there is still a long way to go to change mindsets.

CWC’s body of knowledge enables us to engage with the emerging challenges of, for example, employers and hybrid working. We constantly seek to find ways of engaging with and helping our significant numbers of self employed. Our Workplace Wellbeing Hub has been a universal hit with whoever has seen it, we can all help in actively promoting this.

Our chaplains continue to give the care and compassion needed, sometimes at great emotional cost to themselves. They have been and continue to be under significant pressure, for which they have our total support.

There are interesting times ahead, the workplace could be better for many, work life balance should be encouraged to be more balanced, organisations will I’m sure see the overall benefits, but vigilance about mental health is very important.  
  
Alastair Ure Reid, Chair CWC

Where to Now?

By Paul Hills, Vice-Chair, CWC
 
We seem to be in a strange position in work and in life generally at present.  The pandemic is still here, but things seem to be easing.  The lockdown has been handed over to personal action, but what does that mean in reality?  Are we getting back to work “normally” or is there a new normal to be found?  If so, who decides what it will look like and how will it be implemented?  And, when all this is over (whatever that means) how do we stop something similar happening again?
 
I recently came across an article by an Australian academic, Glenn Varona entitled “Ethics and the resilient society: examining the role of ethics in building societal resilience”.  Ethics is certainly something that should occupy a work-place chaplain.  Issues of right and wrong, justice and fairness all impact on the workplace.  Varona suggests there are two ethical elements needed for society to weather profound disruption:-trust and accountability and the latter he further defines as “shared responsibility”.  It struck me that in answering the question “Where to now?” these elements are very important.  In the lockdown trust in one another was largely replaced by government edict about what we should do, wear (face masks) and how to associate with one another.  Responsibility was reduced to keeping the rules.  Now government has stepped back and we have to re-establish trust and shared responsibility.
 
As the new workplace “normal” emerges, how do we encourage the growth of these ethical attitudes?  Chaplains would seem to be well-placed to help this.  Their work depends largely on developing trust with employers and employees.  They don’t have any “axes to grind” about management and unions (or shouldn’t have!).  They are seen as having a caring role (hopefully!).  All this should help them help those they serve address the issues of building trust and shared responsibility as the “new normal” emerges.
 
So, how could we go about promoting the growth and nurturing of these two ethical realties? No doubt there would need to be some reflection upon how these are functioning already in any particular workplace.  Seeking to heighten awareness of them would be another step.  The use of and strengthening of relationships within any given setting would be needed as well.  Given all that has happened in the lockdown, all this will be a challenge with less use of workplaces for actual work and the general attenuation of relationships.  But if a new normal is to emerge which does not result in friction and possible conflict, this is a challenge that will have to be met.
 
Where to now?  No doubt everyone reading this article will have some experience or views to share about this.  Please do that by feedback to CWC and sharing what you have with whatever colleagues you may have.  CWC has regular monthly online sessions for chaplaincy support.  Questions could be asked there and experience shared.  So,…..where to now?
 
Paul Hills, Vice-Chair CWC

Has anything ‘good’ come out of lockdowns?

By Clive Morton, Vice-Chair, CWC

“Devastating” and “unprecedented” are terms that have been repeatedly used (some would say over-used) throughout the pandemic. The experience for so many has been dire and it’s easy to see this past 18 months in very negative terms.

However, there are positive outcomes and I’d like to share one of those experiences from Peterborough.

Along with other local authorities during 2020, Peterborough City Council (PCC) were struggling to engage effectively with communities and individuals, particularly those isolated at home. The Council needed to get ‘Covid messages across’ and were struggling.

We have a wide range of ethnic communities in Peterborough and, in parallel, strong membership of world religions. Peterborough has had a long history of Inter Faith links and a pattern of strong partnerships between the Council and volunteer organisations including those associated with the Faiths.

Jawaid Khan, Head of Community Resilience and Integration for PCC, approached Rev Canon Tim Alban Jones, Vice Dean at the Cathedral, with the idea of setting up an Inter Faith Support Group (IFSG) with the objective of addressing the Covid issues and working in partnership with PCC and volunteer organisations. Tim Alban Jones took up the challenge and very swiftly set up and coordinated membership of the IFSG establishing fortnightly Zoom meetings and those meetings have met right up to the current time.

The prime objective was to communicate to and between the faiths on the situation with the pandemic and to aid this Dr Tony Jewell, public health consultant to PCC, attended each meeting bringing powerful epidemiological data from the ‘big picture’ right down to ‘drilling down’ detail on Peterborough and its districts and ethnic communities. Apart from the data on the pandemic, opportunities were taken to introduce to the group experts on current community issues where help, action and partnership was needed.
This support group became a self-managing social action forum facing up to the presented and discovered issues and suggesting and implementing solutions that crossed boundaries, engaging each Faith and the related voluntary organisations.

There were many products of the deep relationships established. For example, work across the faiths to provide for the homeless and rough sleepers – Muslim based charities and restaurants, the Sikh Gurdwara, all providing meals for Light Project Peterborough, a Christian charity caring for the homeless and rough sleepers, who were then housed in hotels by government. Later, Mosques and churches became information hubs, testing centres and eventually vaccination centres.

The core topics were getting the Covid messages across; and implementing policies to tackle infection including spot lighting ‘hard to reach groups’ and those lagging behind in the vaccination programme. However these new connections also embraced an amazing range of shared issues such as:

  • Chaplaincy and the work of CWC – including the helpline for those isolated work from home and the self-employed. Through the partnership with the Council CWC was able to develop the Workplace Wellbeing Hub website with links for mental health support. www.workplacewellbeing.org.uk Also, the City Centre Chaplaincy model, that has operated for some years, is now being extended through the partnership with PCC to other townships and communities in Peterborough
  • Fostering – identifying needs and connections.
  • APPG Faith and Society guidance on partnerships – research on local government experience. Support for food banks. Access to those isolated.
  • Public Health and use of worship space – preventative measures during lockdown.
  • Issues of domestic abuse and training for those interacting with such situations.
  • Crafting for Well-being
  • Organising the Census 2021.
  • Links to Policing priorities, in particular for any outdoor events as restrictions eased.
  • Funding opportunities for community groups and faith organisations
  • An opportunity to be a trustee of ‘Headway’
  • Investing in Mental Healthcare for Minority Ethnic Groups in Peterborough.
  • Protection of places of worship against hate crime. Action against hate. SAFE. ‘We Stand Together’ – tackling hate crime on the transport network. Safety in Ramadan.
  • Access to Social Prescribing
  • ‘Stop Suicide’ training (CWC organised)
  • Samaritans – access and volunteering
  • “What may happen as we come out of lockdown” (CWC)

We have all been amazed at what has been achieved from the ‘mustard seed’ of the approach from Jawaid to Tim.

Now, the challenge to build further on this!

Clive Morton Vice-Chair CWC

Creating a conducive workplace for staff wellbeing

By Peter Thatcher, Treasurer, CWCAs more and more organisations are planning for their employees to return to the workplace on a more regular basis, time is likely to be well spent thinking about the work environment that their employees will return to. Much has been written and discussed over the past few months about employee well-being and the need for employers to create a supportive environment for their staff.

As I was musing over this, I was reminded of a client of mine from a few years ago. The client was a financial services company based in the centre of London and they occupied two floors of a very nice office building. The company had gone to great lengths to create a physical environment where people were encouraged to talk, to take time out from their desk and even to take some exercise. Three things that they did have stayed with me over the years.

  1. There was an amazing spiral staircase linking the two floors. The company had installed it themselves on the basis that they wanted people to walk between floors, rather than use the lifts, so that it increased the chance of interaction with colleagues as they passed each other on the stairs. Plus there was the added benefit of encouraging people to exercise while walking up and down the staircase.
  2. They also created a number of seating areas throughout the two floors, in different alcoves and spaces, with comfy seats of varying colours and styles. People were encouraged to use them as an alternative to sitting at their desks, to use them to take some time out for reflection, creative thinking and for chats with colleagues.
  3. And, finally, they had a small coffee bar, which also sold snacks, on one of the floors. Nice idea, but the genius point (I thought) was that they closed it at lunchtime. You might immediately think that odd, to close at one of the busiest times of the day. The logic was quite simple. It was to encourage people to leave the office and walk somewhere to buy lunch rather than simply grab something from the coffee bar and eat while sitting at their desks.

And all of these things worked. They had an engaged, motivated team of people and there was a real buzz about the place. Everything that an employer should want.
Of course, these initiatives cost a lot of money and not every organisation can afford to do what they did, but in these times where the focus is, and should be, on staff well-being, maybe more organisations should devote some time to think creatively about what can be done to create a physical environment that is conducive for people to pause, exercise and chat.

Online seminars and workshops:

Wellbeing topics, reflection, chaplaincy and more…


Here is a selection of online events (July – autumn) that we spotted are coming up which may interest supporters and Chaplains alike; covering a range of topics relevant to work, spirituality and more.

Ageing and spirituality  
3rd July (there is a registration fee to attend)

Faced with the norm of seeing ageing as despair and fragility, we explore ageing as a source of wisdom, joy and growth through Spirituality.

Lighting up eternity in the midst of work and life 
5th July (small charge to attend)

A time of visual and verbal reflection based on the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh. This lunchtime event will be accessible to Christians of all denominations and to people of all faiths and none.

Can we overcome rhetoric and address the tensions of workplace wellbeing? 
6th July (free to attend)

This webinar will pose several questions – such as: Are you a wellbeing donkey? Or is your work becoming more of a health burden? In the webinar we will explore what is wellbeing, can it be measured and better understood? What research is taking place to fully understand workload pressures and how these effect our mental, and physical wellbeing?

Safeguarding Adults – Strengthening Faith Institutions
6th July
Strengthening Faith Institutions is running online training on Tuesday 6 July on ‘Safeguarding Adults: An Introduction’.  The webinar runs from 3pm to 4pm.

Listen to the World Open Mic Night
6th July

St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace is hosting an Open Mic event on Tuesday 6 July on ‘Listen to the World’.  It will be an evening where the musical traditions and talents of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers find a home among local artists. It is being held from 6.30pm to 8.00pm. For more information, contact Jo Winsloe Slater at jowinsloe@stethelburgas.org or register in advance here

Neurodiversity in the Workplace. 
8th July (free to attend)

A virtual webinar event for professionals looking to understand more about Neurodiversity in the workplace. The term Neurodiversity encompasses (among others) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Asperger’s and Tourette ’s syndrome. In the workplace, often there is a fear and stigma about employees whose brains work differently which does nothing to help the employee or employer. In this webinar we will review the key aspects and best-practice regarding disability discrimination.

Self-care for staff and volunteers 
13th July and other dates available, usually one per month (free to attend)

It is essential that as a volunteer, you are putting the same care and love towards yourself as you would towards the programs you serve. Join this monthly session to hear how others are managing under pressure and, if you wish, share your stories. Hear some tips and strategies for Self-Care from a trained counsellor, with opportunities for further support if you need it.

Returning to the workplace – employee wellbeing 
14th July (free to attend)

As restrictions are starting to ease many of us will be swapping our home offices, kitchen tables, trackies and slippers and returning to workplaces over the coming months. If you have been working from home, or managing staff who will going back to the workplace it can feel like a big change and for many a daunting challenge, it may well be very different from what you previously experienced. In this session we will be sharing some practices that may help you with upcoming transitions.

Bereavement Friendly Church  
14th July (free to attend)

Run by Ataloss.org this session helps individuals and religious leaders consider accessibility to the many bereaved people in their communities. The learning from this webinar can be applied to chaplaincy such as in prisons, hospitals and Universities/colleges.

Hannah Malcolm – ‘Grief and Courage in a Dying World’
15 July (free to attend)

Hannah Malcolm is currently training for ordained ministry and writing a PhD on theology, climate and ecological grief. She campaigns around the subject of climate justice and recently edited a book entitled Words for a Dying World: Stories of Grief and Courage from the Global Church (SCM Press, 2020). This event is part of Heaven & Earth at Ely Cathedral Tickets are free, but please book a place here. If you can’t join us in person, the talk will be live streamed.

Meditation in the Christian tradition – weekly practice sessions 
Saturdays, weekly (free to attend)

Meditation in the Christian tradition is a very ancient and very simple way of prayer. It is a way of being fully present to the gift of our life, each other and God. It’s about establishing peace in ourselves so we can be places of peace in the world. Each session will involve a short talk, a period of silent meditation practice and an opportunity questions and conversation.Happy people – healthy workplaces 
24th August (free to attend)

Organised by Workplace Chaplaincy Scotland this seminar will help you to consider the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’ of engaging with wellbeing in the workplace. ‘Why’ explores how happy employees benefit the workforce and the ‘How’ explores the role of senior managers and line management in enabling a happy environment.

What is Mindfulness? Buddhist Roots of a Modern Movement 
14th October (£17 to attend)

This two-hour talk will cover the fascinating roots of mindfulness. Mindfulness is used widely in the world today. But, how did these practices come about? Mindfulness is useful everywhere, so the Buddha said. Using Early Buddhist Texts, this session will focus on the Buddhist foundations of Mindfulness. 

What will happen as we come out of lockdown? What is the next normal?

Grieving over the sad death of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, by all faiths and none, highlights also the need to recognise and deal with the losses due to coronavirus in the last year and to somehow prepare for coming out of lockdown. 

It’s a very obvious observation that we have all suffered quite a bit of loss as we have experienced the pandemic. Some of it was due to the pandemic.  Some of it just what happens. We may not be aware of just how much loss we have suffered.
There have been many bereavements, of course. But these has been compounded by the loss of the usual “rites”, from being present to say farewell to having a funeral with more than a few mourners.

There has also been the loss of employment for many.  That may mean redundancy, but furlough has also meant a loss of productivity, human contact, personal development, and feeling of value associated with the workplace. The workplace and work experience may be very different after lockdown. 

There has been a loss of memories for many.  Weddings and other significant life events have had to go on hold at least.  Husbands have not been able to attend births. Birthdays and other anniversaries have either migrated to zoom or haven’t been held at all.

There has been a loss of simply human contact. For some this has been almost total with supplies being delivered (at a distance) and infirmity meaning even a “Boris walk” hasn’t been possible.  So, no one to bump into, no one for a casual exchange of news. This also means a loss of physical activity for many, especially in sporting terms. The enjoyment as spectators has also been severely restricted.  Another type of loss.

There has also been a loss of meaning and value that people derived from various spiritual activities.  Places of worship have been closed.  Zoom etc has helped, but there has still been loss.  Again, this has partly been about loss of human interaction, but there is also a loss at another level; one less easy to assess perhaps.

Hopefully, the point has been made, there has been widespread and significant loss shared by everyone in some way.  What effects may this have on us as we recover and seek to help others do the same. In some ways all losses lead to a “bereavement experience”. Looking at what we know of that may help us navigate what is to come.

Denial can be part of bereavement. “It’s not that important. We’ll soon be over it. No big deal”.  This may be operating in those who have denied covid exists, but, as lockdown is eased, it may become more significant in our behaviour.

Anger often arises too in bereavement.  It can “earth” onto those trying to help as well. How much of the lockdown protests or the “kill the bill” protests and resistance to vaccines, could have been fuelled at least to some extent by bereavement anger? Disorientation often comes with the shock of bereavement.  The inability to settle to tasks and the lack of motivation may accompany loss.  Alternatively, a sort of bargaining process can set in with arguing with people or the deity about what has happened.

There is, hopefully, also a resolution of grief.  But, as we know, the different aspects of grief experience can recur or become cyclic.

So, becoming aware of this, how can we move out of lockdown and help others do the same? 

That’s what we are hoping you will give some answers to! 
Here are some “off the top of the head” suggestions.

  1. Be aware.  Obvious really but noting how much loss there has been an important first step to managing it.
  2. Don’t be put off course by explosive reactions of anger or grief.  Stay with the person, with yourself.  Don’t crowd but give room whilst keeping in touch.
  3. Realise this will all take time to resolve.  Recovery will not be overnight no matter how much we wish it might be.
  4. Encourage people to talk about their losses no matter how small they may seem to be.  Perhaps we must find extra “space” for this and encourage employers to see the need for it.
  5. Don’t get swept up in any “denial euphoria”.  Stay alert to the pain that is there, and which will surface possible several times.
  6. Make yourself available to “soul space” and then to others.  We put it that way so that we see our own loss needing healing as well. Non-managerial or friend/peer support may help us here. Availability to others will need our own souls to be nurture if we are to be of use to others.

Anything else?  We are facing a very big challenge as lockdown begins to end.  Please, share your ideas with us!

Paul Hills/Clive Morton (Vice-Chairs of CWC) April 2021

info@cambsworkplacechaplaincy.org.uk
www.cambsworkplacechaplaincy.org.uk
www.workplacewellbeing.org.uk

Love @ Work


It could be a slogan for Work Chaplaincy. But it isn’t! It’s the title of a book about the 100 years of the Industrial Christian Fellowship (Love@Work – Ian Randall, Phil Jump, John Weaver – DLT – 2020). 

Its forerunners, the Navvy Mission Society (1877) and the Christian Social Union (1889) joined together in 1920 to become the ICF. 

The book details a fascinating history of social thought and action by Christians. Included in its history is the work of G.A. Studdert Kennedy, perhaps better known as “Woodbine Willy” the First World War chaplain and poet. Much of what it has been about could be termed a form of workplace chaplaincy.  The history talks of sacrificial practical action by individuals and groups. It also tells of challenges to institutional religion to take seriously the social needs of workers and to industry to take seriously the spiritual, social and emotional needs of workers. 

Quotes from Studdert Kennedy make clear some of the values and mission of the Fellowship. Faith “does not relieve us from the duty of thought…It does not put an end to research and enquiry, it gives a basis from which real research is made possible and fruitful of results; a basis without which thinking means wandering round in circles, and getting nowhere in the end, and research means battering at a brass door that bruises our knuckles, and does not yields by a millionth part of an inch.” (p.55)

On the place of organised religion, in this case the Christian church, “If the Church is to be the Church, and not a mere farce – and a peculiarly pernicious farce, a game of sentimental make-believe – she must be filled to overflowing with the fire of the ancient prophets for social righteousness, with the wrath and love of Christ.” (p.57)

In these words we hear, an awareness of the need for a holistic approach to work life which includes social, emotional and spiritual needs, a challenge to religion to take seriously the life lived at work, based on experience not sentiment, a driving passion for justice and the good of all.

These don’t seem a bad summary of how workplace chaplaincy might perform!

Given our present context of pandemic, we have been appraising how we might continue to be in contact with people in the workplace now that so many work from home and covid makes personal contact so difficult. Perhaps we should also be reflecting on some of the issues raised in the historic ICF approach.

Are we “speaking truth to power” over the injustices and inequalities the pandemic has underscored? 

Is there a “prophetic” element to chaplaincy directed both to the religious and the secular?

Are we sufficiently energised by a vision of meeting the whole needs of people, emotional and spiritual as well as material? 

The mental burden of lockdown cannot be underestimated, nor the hollowing out of spiritual sensitivity that it is bringing. 
We have seen the best of people in the dedication of the NHS and of the myriad of volunteers giving time and energy to help their communities.  But we have also seen the worst in the carelessness and selfishness of some, the outright and ignorant denial of the problem by others and the slovenliness (at least) of some government decisions.  What does workplace chaplaincy have to say and do in the light of all this? 

As the pandemic begins, please God, to fade these are questions and issues we need to face if the work of chaplaincy is to be relevant post-covid. 

What are your thoughts and views on this?  Please let us know what they are. There is a future as well as a present in which the whole range of human need must be addressed, physical, mental, social and spiritual.  Love@Work requires our passionate engagement. 

Tells us about yours and let us share what we know and have for a better future in the workplace.  Paul Hills, Vice-Chairman. CWC