About Chaplaincy

Chaplaincy is...

...an ancient tradition.

St Martin of Tours ( 316-397ad) was a Roman Army officer who encountered a destitute man near the gates of Amiens and cut his army cloak (capella) in half and became known as the firstcapellainor chaplain. After ordination, he was commissioned to work away from the main church building in places where people were in special need. Buildings created for this special work were known as chapels!

So from the beginning chaplains have had a particular pastoral and practical care for people in critical need.

They work where people are not waiting for others to come to them and they are ready to make themselves vulnerable having only half a cloak left. Martin incidentally, began his ministry as a lay person.

...part of the ministry of Jesus.

The Gospels have only a few references to Jesus being in the Temple and one of him in a synagogue at Nazareth. Apart from these, the ministry of Jesus is conducted largely outside the confines of the gathered community of faith. This is a context that chaplains recognise as they follow their call to discipleship, living out the gospel in word and deed, making real the ministry of Jesus in our time and place.

...in the tradition of John Wesley.

Our origins and self-understanding as a Church are essentially missional. Chaplains (amongst others) essentially have a 'sent' status - conferred by the Church - representative of the Church and the whole Christian cause. Chaplains may have a prophetic role to speak a word of caution and to encourage reform - creating the kingdom of God


...living and working in a plural world.

Most chaplains now work in a multi-faith environment. This is not an option, it is a necessity and it can also be a blessing.

Most chaplaincy also engages with people who do not know the Christian story or have any structured spiritual understanding. They might be very cautious of using religious thought-forms or language. So chaplains need a special facility for such engagement.


All of this says that chaplaincy is a way for us to involve ourselves in a mission within secular institutions and to the whole of society and this is a huge opportunity.

But chaplaincy is also a slightly hidden ministry. Most people are amazed to find out that there are over 700 chaplains in the Methodist Church. These are divided broadly into eight disciplines:

  • armed forces
  • healthcare
  • prisons
  • workplace
  • day schools
  • independent Schools
  • further education colleges
  • higher education institutions.

There are networks and coordinators to support each of these national teams and increasingly there are opportunities for cross-disciplinary exchange as well.

Recent developments include a casino chaplaincy, an extensive volunteer team in Bradford Magistrates Court and a new focus on Chaplaincy in Methodist day schools

We also now have a Connexional Chaplaincy Development Project to help churches and circuits to develop their own expressions of chaplaincy ministry as part of their mission strategy.

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A small group resource for nurturing engagement in God's mission through chaplaincy

RAF Chaplaincy Video 0714

Chaplaincy in the RAF

Watch a video shown at the 2014 Methodist Conference. Padre Chris Acher describes his motivation to become a military chaplain, and his experiences with the RAF in Afghanistan.

"Chaplains are... the church that has left the building... We can all be involved in chaplaincy."

Martyn Atkins - General Secretary of the  Methodist Church in Britain

Read articles from the Epworth Review Chaplaincy issue December 2010