All souls take flight in Newcastle

10 March 2021

Charlotte Osborn, chaplain to Newcastle International Airport, reveals spiritual needs among the check-in queues.

newcastle-on-the-runwayNewcastle International Airport provides employment and a sense of community for almost 10,000 people, or ‘souls’ as the industry refers to those caught up in an aviation incident.

That’s significant language for me, because that’s what the 10,000 are, and ourselves: souls for whom Christ died, whether we acknowledge it or not.

So it’s my joy to be invited into the airport community to support its life and simply to be there and to raise an awareness of the presence of God.

All of us carry a number of spiritual burdens, and my hope is to help people get things out of their system, or see things from a different perspective, or see where God might be.

The chaplaincy room is found immediately before the entrance to security, open 24/7. It provides a place of refuge for both employees and passengers, being used by those of all faiths and none. A short prayer service is held there every Wednesday lunchtime, to remember before God those who are under particular pressure, or in any need, as well as those whose daily work is to enable others to fly.

The place of a chaplain is all about building trust, building relationships, showing compassion, being a visible reminder that there is more to life than meeting the next deadline or target.

It’s being available as an impartial listener to all, without fear or favour, without threat of confidentiality being broken, or judgement resulting; listening to the stories of life and telling the stories of faith.

It’s about being conscious of being invited across the threshold of someone else’s territory; about death and resurrection, celebration and despair, all in the moment of meeting on the corridor.

And it’s about meeting only part of an individual, but always a significant part. Because in 2015 the vast majority of our colleagues in every workplace are unchurched, that visible part varies hugely. Some know nothing about religion and care even less, some are separated from or have rejected their religious upbringing,

some are very antagonistic because of past experiences, and some are very committed people of faith, maybe Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Christian.

The chaplain’s task is to see where God is at work and to enable people to interpret their human experience in the light of the gospel. As Archbishop Sentamu has said, “We are spiritual beings having human experiences, not human beings having spiritual experiences.”

This article originally appeared in the connexion magazine, issue 2.
Banner photo: "British Airways A320 G-EUYY Newcastle Airport" by Jonathan Winton Photography is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Photo of Charlotte Osborn on the runway at Newcastle International Airport: © Paolo Ciabrera, TMCP