Full report on the Norfolk Chaplaincy Conference
This year’s Norfolk Chaplaincy Conference, organised by Good Work (Norfolk and Waveney Industrial Mission), on November 6 provided though-provoking addresses from Theos researcher, Ben Ryan and high profile chaplains. Rev Matthew Hutton gives a full report.
Some 30 delegates enjoyed an excellent and thought-provoking day at The Great Britain Centre, Swaffham on Monday 6 November put together by Rev Canon Chris Copsey, Chaplain to HM Coroner in Norwich and to the Matthew Project, and Social, Environmental and Community Concerns Officer for the Diocese of Norwich.
As in previous years, one of the welcome features of the day was plenty of time to meet one another, to exchange experiences and to gain new ideas. Within that framework, and after a welcome from Bishop Jonathan of Lynn, there were five principal Addresses: (i) Ben Ryan, Researcher from the Christian Think Tank Theos in London talking on ‘An evaluation of chaplaincy in Norfolk’; (ii) Rev Dr Fiona Stewart-Darling, Lead Chaplain of the Canary Wharf, London, Multi-Faith Chaplaincy on ‘We can speak of God – Mission is possible within the context of chaplaincy’; (iii) Caroline Virgo of The Clewer Initiative on ‘The Initiative and Modern Slavery’; (iv) Dr Asgar Halim Rajput on ‘Speaking of God: A Muslim chaplain's perspective’ and finally (v) Ben Ryan again on ‘How we can evaluate Chaplaincy outcomes’.
‘An evaluation of chaplaincy in Norfolk’ by Ben Ryan
Ben’s remit was to review and comment on the conclusions of the recent Theos Report mapping chaplaincy in Norfolk issued in July this year and compiled by Ben and his colleague Natan Mladin.
Theos’ research has shown that there is an enormous number of chaplains in Norfolk across a broad range of organisation and sectors, in fact over 100 separate organisations and institutions. The report records a total of 230 chaplains, though this is not the full picture.
On top of the many historic chaplaincies, there has been recent growth in areas where there is a high pastoral need, such as suicide bereavement and the Coroner's Service. It was good to see a chaplaincy for the deaf. While Ben and Natan found plenty of workplace chaplains, it is surprising that many large organisations do not appear to have them.
Theos believe that Chaplaincy is important in presenting Christianity as the public face of the church. With only 2 to 6% of the population regularly attending a church, chaplaincy should be regarded as an obvious connection between church and communities. Will this be seen as an opportunity?
Chaplaincy raises the issue of a theology of presence.
Training and Safeguarding
46% of chaplains have some form of religious training. There are questions about responsibility for training and resourcing. The good news is that most chaplains have had some form of chaplaincy training. However, 28% do not have safeguarding training – and only 50% of the organisations who responded to the survey replied to the safeguarding training question, which suggests that a reasonable number do not have such training. This is an important part of managing risk of questions and regulations: faith groups need to protect themselves.
Theos have a number of questions for further research, for example the age of chaplains.
Ben would like to see a raising of the chaplaincy profile, so that it ceases to be thought of as a second-class ministry. Interestingly, the Baptist Church is ordaining people specifically as chaplains. Funding for chaplains seems to be a low priority.
‘We can speak of God – Mission is possible within the context of chaplaincy’ by Rev’d Dr Fiona Stewart-Darling
The chaplaincy in Canary Wharf started in 2004. Canary Wharf is a private business park in East London, within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, covering 97 acres, which is being extended to 115 acres. The international working population is currently 120,000 (having doubled from 2004) and will grow to around 200,000 in the next 6 years. There are 330, shops, cafes, restaurants, which will increase to around 450 in the next 6 years. There is currently no residential accommodation; 2020 will see the first apartments occupied, some 800 of them, and by 2023 there will be a total of 3,300 apartments.
The Canary Wharf Estate is changing, as global companies are shrinking their workforces. Now, increasingly, start-ups and small and medium size companies are choosing to have their offices there. This will change how the chaplaincy functions. Currently making contact with large companies is relatively easy and once the Chaplaincy Team has a relationship with them, the Team can work with them in promoting the work of chaplaincy for their employees. However, working increasingly with much smaller companies is more labour-intensive and time-consuming in trying to build a relationship with each company. Hence, Fiona and her Team are currently in the process of funding and implementing a strategy to help them to grow as a chaplaincy to enable them to meet the increasing demand. The Canary Wharf Team presently comprises six individuals representing 1.9 full-time equivalents.
Christians need to have a deep understanding of different religious sensibilities, for example among Jews and Muslims. So, how can we speak about God? In multi-faith chaplaincies it is much easier to talk about God with Jewish and Muslim colleagues, because people want to talk about faith. The workplace is a great arena for conversations, but It is important how we initiate and develop conversations, being respectful and remembering that we are dealing with people of all faiths and none. There is a need for generous hospitality: a willingness to listen and to be generous when we disagree.
Fiona spoke about inter-faith dialogue, with established boundaries and ground rules, namely Respect, Dignity and Integrity.
So how do we engage with a culture which is different from our own? It involves invitation into a space with an openness to understand the faith of the other person. Embassy is being fully resident in their spaces, taking Christ with us. ‘Generous love’ talks about being present and abiding. People want to talk about God. They want space to explore – they want us to be safe.
In the Book of Acts, more often than not, the Gospel is preached in answer to a question. When people ask questions, that gives us permission to speak. It is about building relationships with people in the workplace and it takes a long time. It is about being alongside people. Jesus’ encounter with Cleopas and his friend on the Emmaus Road in Luke 24 is a great lesson about taking things in stages:
1. Listening, which is sometimes all we are asked to do;
2. Asking questions, which leads to dialogue;
3. Explanation; and
Jesus doesn’t impose. He starts as a guest of his hosts and the relationship changes as he becomes the host.
Fiona’s team works as a multi-faith chaplaincy. They can talk about God because they work as a team, respecting each other. They can deal with elephants in the room, eg Palestine. They recognise that they can’t change the world! There is often misunderstanding between different faith groups, so they encourage conversations. Scriptural conversations are good, as in looking at other people’s texts one can deepen one’s own faith.
Delegates at the conference were invited to consider these questions:
1. How does working with those of other faiths build up your own faith?
2. What can we learn from each other (if we don’t have colleagues of other faiths)?
‘The Clewer Initiative and Modern Slavery’ by Caroline Virgo
The Clewer Initiative is a three-year project to enable Church of England dioceses and wider church networks to develop strategies to detect modern slavery in their communities and help provide victim support and care. It involves working with the church locally, identifying resources that can be utilised, developing partnerships with others, and creating a wider network of advocates seeking to end modern slavery altogether. Nationally, it involves developing a network of practitioners committed to ‘sharing models of best practice and providing evidence-based data to resource the church’s national engagement with statutory and non-statutory bodies’ (from The Clewer Initiative’s website).
Caroline showed and commented on the video ‘We See You’.
In January and March 2018 The Clewer Initiative are hosting three events with the Eastern Baptist Association, in Norwich, Cambridge and Chelmsford. The Norwich event takes place on Saturday 27 January from 10.30am-2.30pm at Witard Road Baptist Church, Norwich NR7 9XD. Places (which are free) can be booked here or, if unsuccessful, contact Caroline on Caroline.email@example.com
The events are designed to give a thorough grounding on what modern slavery looks like in the UK, and how to spot the signs, under the headings:
• Training by the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority;
• Input by local police;
• Learn to spot the signs and report your concerns; and
• Learn how to work in partnership with local agencies to make your community slavery free.
Caroline stressed that it is no good looking for victims if we don’t do anything about it. We must report what we see in terms of modern slavery or suspicions of it, eg to the Police. The Police are then in a position to put the evidence together to form a picture and The Clewer Initiative offers training. We need to report things we are suspicious about, even if not absolutely certain, with reference to the modern slavery helpline.
‘Speaking of God: A Muslim chaplain's perspective’ by Dr Asgar Halim Rajput
Asgar presented the following four strands: his background, his role as chaplain, the Islamic faith and how all this correlates with God.
Asgar started by giving his own testimony. Born in East Africa, brought up in Kenya, he has lived in the UK for over 40 years. He is a chaplain in three universities, at Heathrow Airport and in a Hospital. In 2008 he helped to set up the Association of Muslim Chaplains in Education (AMCed) and is currently engaged in responses to a survey on Muslim chaplains in higher education, 34 out of 56 Muslim chaplains having responded. Muslim chaplaincy started in the UK in the 1980’s/90’s, with a growing number of Muslim students entering higher education and the particular need for proper space and washing facilities.
Asgar emphasised that his concern is not just with Muslim students and staff, but with the whole institution. He noted that it is often rather easier to make friends with the Christian Union than with the Islamic society. He delights in working with the vulnerable. He has developed training for Muslim chaplains, wanting them to be involved in the whole of university life, not just in pastoral support.
He went on to talk about the Muslim faith, based on five pillars:
3. Fasting – 30 days every year, no food, drink or sexual relations from sunrise to sunset.
4. Charity – 2.5% of one’s wealth (including savings) is to be given to the poor each year.
5. Pilgrimage – which is compulsory unless it is practically impossible.
Further, there are six articles of faith:
1. Belief in one God.
5. The Day of Judgement.
So, what does it mean to be a Muslim? Asgar's day begins with prayers, getting ready and then going to work. Everything he does is based on his faith: he is observant in his faith insofar as he can. Good character is important: as a chaplain he must be a good listener and be patient. God gives him the guidance he needs in dealing with others depending on what those individuals want or need. If they are receptive he talks about God, but only at the point at which they want it. This is a skill that is currently under development.
Acknowledging that chaplaincy is a western concept, this presents difficulties in engaging Muslim students with university life, etc. Asgar is aware that students of different faiths do not integrate. There are issues of safety, sanctuary, identity and belonging. So we need to ask people of all faiths to do things together, for example to engage in religious literacy and scriptural reasoning.
‘How we can evaluate chaplaincy outcomes’ by Ben Ryan
Why should we care about all this?
1. The statistics are sobering: in 11 years there has been a 7% drop in church attendance etc. Consider the impact of religion on society. The default identity has changed from Christian to having no religion. We have seen a major change in trust, with now 55% having little or no confidence in Christian groups and 65% in healthcare. The statistics are better with debt and foodbank, but not by much. There is no automatic assumption that Christians have something positive to offer.
2. This is good for chaplaincy, with chaplains being out in the public space. There is therefore a positive opportunity and assessments of chaplaincy are generally good.
3. Also, this is good for faith groups. We need to exploit the opportunities, increasing their profile in the public square.
4. It is good also for organisations. The reason is that they like assessments and want to use them to get better.
So what do we mean by ‘impact’? There are very different answers depending on whether you are talking about service users, organisations or faith groups. We don’t often enough ask the question, what is chaplaincy for?
1. Stakeholders give an answer in terms of mission and purpose. Then there is:
2. Pastoral and welfare support.
3. A response to policy, for example, The statutory requirement for having chaplains in school; Consultancy, for example on equality and diversity (though you do need to have some claim to expertise); and Prevent as responses to extremism, which helps to support the vulnerable (although we do need to recognise the negative spin in spying).
4. Creating community and ethos. Consider what chaplains do for the atmosphere and ethos of a space, especially in the military and with the theatre (for example, the blessing of the restored Apollo Theatre - following the collapse of the balcony in December 2013 - which was appreciated by all, including those sceptical of religion who had been compelled to attend by the theatre’s management).
5. Mediation and calming, for example, in a university context with such as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict or with the Police. This is immensely valuable.
6. Critical feedback. Chaplains have a prophetic voice to speak to power, for example charities for the homeless or the NHS.
It is interesting to ask of faith groups the question what is chaplaincy for? There is a danger of chaplains not ‘going anywhere’, so they need a connection to a group. Distinguish inward-facing chaplaincies (for example, Roman Catholics with the Sacraments or Muslims with Halal; creating new models of leadership ministry, eg female Muslim chaplains or, within Christianity, lay people) from outward-facing (eg winning friends by being a public face). The contentious end of this spectrum is proselytism, which we counter by being ‘pastorally active but spiritually reactive’.
What models for impact are there? There is no such thing as one size fits all. To create reliable data you need a sample of between 1,000 and 2,000. Quantitatively, numbers cannot be queried. There are three ways of doing this, becoming progressively more difficult:
2. Demand (eg, hospital records); and
3. Outcomes, which is very difficult. Here community chaplaincy lends itself in working for ex-offenders by providing for them jobs, homes etc. However, the problem is that there is a very small set and it is self-selecting, with numbers for reduction in re-offending.
Then there is qualitative evidence, for example values-based reflective practice (VBRF) and selecting stories, though it is the good ones that tend to stick. But we need current practice, as well as bad stories. VBRF is a state-funded exercise by NHS Scotland: noticing, wondering and realising. Consider the ‘Mug of Tea’ practice pioneered by the Methodists: what can be gathered during the time taken to share a mug of tea? This can be done in groups including the stakeholder, with the chaplain looking for the ‘most significant change’. This allows everyone to have instant feedback. We must take this impact issue seriously, which can be done without thinking just about core numbers. This will ultimately pay out in favour of chaplaincy.
Before his final prayer, Bishop Jonathan answered the question ‘What is chaplaincy for?’ with ‘Chaplains are for delivery of love for individuals, in a way that many of us have lost sight of’.
This was another most stimulating day, one that has become firmly established in the Norfolk Christian calendar, with much to feed and encourage the imagination for ministry possibilities.
Report by Rev Matthew Hutton, Curate at St Stephen’s Church, Norwich and Thorpe St Andrew Church, Norwich: firstname.lastname@example.org