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

Chaplaincy and Contemporary Spirituality

I was privileged on behalf of CWC to join a Zoom Chaplaincy Conference in November run by Norwich Chaplaincy with the above title. It was led by Rev Dr Andrew Todd, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Professional Doctorate in Practical Theology, Anglia Ruskin University.

I found it challenging on the role of chaplaincy and very relevant to today’s situation, so thought the essence worth sharing with you.

Andrew started the session with a sketch picture of the contemporary view of ‘spirituality’ – of how the population might see it or desire it – “the basic human capacity for transcendence….towards the horizon of ultimate value” (Sandra Schneiders ‘Approaches to the study of Christian Spirituality’)

Human experience might come from an increasing variety of sources:

  • From traditional religion
  • Be connected with ‘place’ eg. St Ninian’s cave, Galloway; Skara Brae, Orkney
  • From ‘New Age’ or ’alternative’ spiritualities
  • Arising in popular culture eg. Ianto’s Shrine, Cardiff Bay
  • Interwoven with consumerism eg. shop called ‘Rituals’ at St Pancras Station
  • Marking life events: eg. relationship: commitment, or death: increase in flowers at the roadside: the ‘Diana’ effect.

Chaplaincy needs to recognise the innate desire for spirituality, not necessarily connected with religion. This is recognised and integrated in statements of purpose in our chaplaincies eg

‘Listening to the patient’s experience and the questions that may arise; affirming the patient’s humanity; protecting the patient’s dignity, self-worth and identity….’ (NICE, 2004)

These developments mean that there is a challenge to traditional religions that demand conformity to a ‘higher truth’ as opposed to those that engage with the depths of personal experience. Not ‘affiliation’ but ‘connection’.

Andrew then developed the theme on contemporary and traditional spirituality by growth of ‘intersections’ such as:

Mindfulness; Contemplative Prayer; Contemplation; Transcending the self, leading to the contrasting religious approaches of ‘Solid Modernity’ and ‘Liquid Modernity’ (Bauman, Zygmunt, ‘Liquid Modernity, Cambridge Polity Press 2000)

The pandemic has accelerated many of the features of ‘Liquid Modernity’ into current faith practice:

  • Livestreamed worship
  • Zoom meditation
  • Zoom coffee/sherry
  • Fellowship Groups
  • Taize livestreamed prayer
  • ‘Connected’ communities – more connected via Zoom than returning to socially-distanced worship?

These themes were brought together to provide the challenge to chaplaincy today:

Chaplaincy can be seen as occupying the space between a ‘Faith Community’ and ‘The Organisation’ within the overall envelope of ‘Society’.

Society contributes Public norms and Cultural values and practices.

Chaplaincy has to deal with some big challenges which our readers will recognise:

  • Understanding (setting, faith community, society)
  • Translating, being bilingual, doing dialogue
  • Working with expectations
  • Knowing how to care, nurture the sacred in diverse secular contexts
  • Living on, crossing and subverting boundaries
  • Living at the intersections of religion, spirituality and the secular
  • Holding, enabling and shaping

When looking at the theological implications of chaplaincy today, Andrew summarised with the following:

  • God’s presence and action in the world – God present and active in contemporary spirituality
  • Missio Dei and the dynamics of mission
  • Theology of dialogue (as part of mission)
  • Ecclesiology – is chaplaincy marginal or central?
  • Discipleship – formation for what?…in what?
  • Ministry – building up the church and service of the world

I hope these snippets will provoke some thought and challenges from our readers, and no doubt Andrew will be interested in such outcome!

Should you wish to delve further into the much longer material and references Andrew has discovered in his research then CWC can make the necessary connections.

Canon Professor Clive Morton OBE, Vice-Chairman. CWC

The Past is a Different Country

Today, as November ends and December begins, across the UK the numbers of people affected by COVID19 have been rising dramatically. Even now, we are hoping the recent lockdown may have slowed the spread of the virus. While the emergence of possible vaccines is giving us some cautious reason for optimism, we know that it will be a long time before we are out of the woods. The situation in Cambridgeshire is a microcosm of the national picture.

We’ve heard about the different areas of life in our county: hospitals – especially intensive care units – in danger of being overwhelmed; schools constantly having to reorganise their ways of working; some businesses facing imminent insolvency or bankruptcy with employees being made redundant whilst others are so busy that they don’t have time to think; prisoners being locked up almost around the clock; police officers trying to understand and implement frequently changing regulations; and local government officials battling with ever increasing demands on rapidly dwindling resources. And there will be others known to each one of us.

Although the present circumstances are unprecedented in our recent history, it is times of stress and trauma that underline the need for someone who can be ‘present’ for those who are struggling with the pressures of life; someone who can offer listening ears and words of encouragement and guidance. And that, surely, is what the ministry of chaplaincy has always been about?

How can those who are chaplains fulfil that ministry when the pressures on host organisations are so great, and not just financial pressures, although those will be a factor. There are so many challenges for chaplains who want to walk alongside those in the various workplaces where they have a role. But it is not something that is easy to do at the moment, when people have to socially distance and wear masks that muffle their voices. You can’t have a confidential discussion with someone when you have to shout through a face covering to someone who is six feet away.

It seems as though the pressure on government to ‘move things on’ has been amplified because of the desire to be able to celebrate Christmas in some sort of traditional fashion. But, deep down, probably most of us realise that there will be no return to that which was there before. In the notable opening words of (one-time Peterborough resident) L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between:

‘The past is a different country: they do things differently there.’

L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between

The normal in future is going to be very different to the way it was.

Over the past few months many people will have started to interact with their doctor, their supermarket, their bank, their children’s school, even their place of faith or worship, via the medium of the internet. However, even as these interactions take place, there is a recognition that there is something missing. No matter how good our electronic device nor how fast our broadband connection is, there is something of the muffled shouting through a face covering about it. We are rediscovering that it is the personal contact, the soothing voice, the fleeting smile, the gentle touch on the arm, that makes all the difference.

Today, as November ends and December begins, we are starting the season of Advent. Contrary to popular belief, Advent is not about putting up the Christmas decorations and opening calendars to find bits of chocolate. For Christians, Advent is a time for anticipating Christ’s return to earth, for desiring an immanent God to be present in this corner of creation.

The great German theologian Dietrich Boenhoffer, who was tortured and died in a Nazi concentration camp for speaking out against Hitler’s horrors, said that “The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.”

If there ever was a time for people to be troubled in soul and to know themselves to be poor and imperfect it is now. But Advent is also surely the time for us to sing:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

A prayer: Almighty God – we hold before you at this Advent season those who hold roles as chaplains in our county; those whose desire it is to walk alongside people with a whole variety of needs. Compassionate God, may our chaplains be aware of your firm and constant embrace as they minister to those they stand with at this difficult time. Amen.

(Photo by Smart on Unsplash)

The Place where I work…

It sounds simple enough. The place where I work. My workplace.

We used to say this in a matter of fact statement in a conversation, and often it involved a physical description; a description of an organisation, based in a town, a specific industry, business park or office perhaps.

Of course, if you’re working in healthcare, or retail or perhaps education your workplace is still the same physical place; albeit with many modifications and possibly some virtual existence too.

But living through Covid-19 is showing how everything has been shaken up like a pair of dice, then thrown in the air whilst we all look around at where the dice have landed! Some of us are struggling with the constant uncertainty – it’s completely normal to feel like that as humans need some certainty.

Recently at CWC we have been discussing the need for interactions with others and how the changing dimensions of a ‘workplace’ is affecting so many people. If the workplace is now as varied as kitchens, offices, living rooms, co-working spaces, shops and factories then how do we ensure employees and the self employed are best served emotionally? How do workplace chaplains respond and adapt to this? This is a key area we are considering and discussing with chaplains to ensure CWC can support them as best we can.

Boundaries for comfort

Whatever your personal circumstances; it’s important to create boundaries that comfort and support our emotional, physical, spiritual and practical needs during these times – wherever our place of work may be.

How do we separate work (paid and unpaid) and home life? I know of some friends who are working from home but have a ‘commute’ to help get them in the mode for the working day, it could be a walk that is equal to a (previous) commute or it could be a different morning ritual to nourish and separate home from work.

I recently read 7 great tips that many of us can try, whatever your circumstances. I hope you may find some of these useful:

  1. Plan ahead – plan out your week and days so you can see where you need to divide up time for things to replenish you. It could be a lunchtime walk or set breaks every 30 minutes if you’re working at a desk. Work with your other household members so that everyone knows how the week is looking for you all.
  2. Routine – It sounds boring but these strange times mean your mind will be craving routine when life around us feels so uncertain – these boundaries will help you feel more organised and give structure to your week
  3. Maximise your outside allowance – we all know time outside is important and never more so than now. Whatever you can manage outside will boost your overall health and wellbeing, even if you can only fit in a quick walk round the block.
  4. Learn to switch off – make food breaks the time to switch off or hide your phone/laptop to aid you switching off. Go for a walk. Plan something nice for the evening like a social call or a hobby. Talk through your day with someone to help you process your day.
  5. Make time off sacred – whether you have a morning off in the week, a day off or a weekend, make this time special and restorative. Make sure it is relaxing or fun – whatever you crave and don’t feel guilty about a lie in or treats!
  6. Create a designated workspace – if you’re someone working from home, try to create an area where you only work. A spare room/office is of course a luxury for many so it could just be a section of worktop, a certain chair or area of the kitchen table that is the only place where you work. It just means you can separate out where you might sit to relax or watch TV and this simple divide can help.
  7. Prioritise your relationships – Everyone is experiencing the pandemic in a different way so we all need to be tolerant of how others are feeling even if it is at odds with how we’re personally feeling. At home if you are part of a household then remember that being together 24/7 under exceptionally stressful circumstances can put a lot of pressure on relationships and dealing with these thoughts and emotions is necessary so that you don’t bottle them up. You may feel you can’t talk to a loved one if things are difficult but find someone else you can talk to. We all need this release!

Jane Thompson

Administrator, CWC

Image credit: Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

What do we do now?

What do we do now?

With the Covid-19 crisis there are plenty of restrictions on what chaplains can and cannot do.  What do you do when a lot of people are “home-working”?  How do you help those being furloughed or even made redundant?  Things have eased up somewhat, but as I write, there is talk of new restrictions, a “circuit-break”.

Recently I took part in a quiet day on Zoom with a number of volunteers in chaplaincy. At one point what do we do now came up.  A number of suggestions were made.

  1. Find some open space that can be used to meet, like a nearby garden. In a hospital context this may well work for relatives unable to spend much time with patients.  Other contexts might be able to find some space too.  A poster on a notice board about the “space” might help.
  2. Use modern technology might help with things like “Facetime” and various video calling apps. Where the work is within a factory or office, the managers could be given a phone number and asked to circulate it carefully to those needing time with a chaplain.  There could be privacy issues here, but they might be ameliorated. There is always the CWC Listening Line too!
  3. Maybe this is a time to develop some of our own skills. CWC is looking at accessing appropriate webinars about mental health etc which could help this.
  4. There is always prayer, and not as a last resort! Chaplains work is not just about face to face contacts (although we all want more of them!).  Holding people and situations in the peace of God in prayer may be one of our main callings at present.  In a world where there is so much uncertainty and anxiety, finding quiet, calm, restful places, whether external or internal, would seem to be essential. Can chaplains find ways to help this happen?  And, this work of prayer is no soft option when there is so much pain around.  But it certainly needs to be done.

These are some things that arose out of one conversation.  So, what do you think?  What have you tried?  Perhaps the other thing we can do at the moment is share ideas.  This newsletter can be a forum for that or there may be other ways to be explored.

What do we do now?

What do you think?

Revd. Paul Hills, Vice Chair, CWC