Why chaplains are one of our ‘Hidden Treasures’

28 November 2023

Comforting, listening and helping. These are the qualities displayed by chaplains all over the world, regardless of their faith. In hospices, schools, workplaces and music festivals, to name but a few, chaplains can be found everywhere.

“Sometimes, patients are sitting with their heads bowed, not making eye contact and not talking.” June Rutherford, chaplain for The Spiritual Care Centre in South Yorkshire, would visit weekly without seeing any change. “Then one day I call, and they're by the door waiting for me. As I approach, they have smiles on their faces. Likewise, when visiting the hospice and meeting a family at their most vulnerable, they would invite me into their space to sit with them. Very often no words are needed.”

Chaplains provide support for people outside a congregation in settings such as hospitals, farmers’ markets, caravan sites, canals, shopping centres and the armed forces; anywhere chaplains are needed. They support and care for those who need it. Because of the nature of their calling, beyond the bounds of a church, they can be overlooked.

Chaplains frequently work in teams that include members of different faiths and beliefs. Their main role is to provide spiritual care to people who may or may not share their faith because all can benefit from chaplains' services. Chaplains help people feel valued and listened to, and to find worth and support in their lives.

Chaplains, with their guest-like approach, show a special kind of vulnerability that is not often seen in other ministries. Their work is a unique expression of the Christian mission, bringing comfort and spiritual connection to those in need, wherever they may be.

The Methodist Church organised a special event, A Celebration of Chaplaincy, on 9 November 2023, attended by around 80 people, including the President of the Methodist Conference, Revd Gill Newton, and the Vice-President, Deacon Kerry Scarlett. The event was a celebration of the incredible work done by chaplains, and an opportunity for them to connect and share their experiences.

Vice-President, Deacon Kerry Scarlett commented, “My time as a workplace chaplain was one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences I have had in ministry. Rewarding because to be able to hold space for people of all faiths and none is a huge privilege. Challenging, because we are always the guest, rather than the host, in someone else’s space, and often, what is required of us is to simply ‘be’, to be available, to have the time to really listen in a world where busyness and doing is the norm.”

“Chaplaincy is about being present to offer a glimmer of hope, solidarity and compassion when someone needs it most. Another challenge is that chaplaincy is sometimes not understood or fully valued within our churches. Alongside being an inclusive, welcoming presence in so many different spaces, chaplains also offer a prophetic voice back into our congregations. Chaplains bring the concerns of the world to our churches, and through the roles they inhabit, show how we might all better live out our faith in both words and action. Chaplaincy is something to be treasured.”

Gill and Kerry also gave inspirational speeches on the theme of ‘Hidden Treasures’ during the event which left everyone feeling motivated and inspired.

Concluded Gill, “It was a joy to be invited to share in this celebration of chaplaincy because chaplains themselves are treasures to those who are seeking someone or something to bring them comfort or encouragement, friendship or kindness, in what might be some of the darkest and most painful moments of their lives.”