From care homes to Crufts

10 March 2021

Heather Norman, lay chaplain, spends her days at Charnwood House in Coventry, run by housing and care charity MHA. She offers help and a listening ear to residents and maintains links with families of those who were  cared for here and return to the home for services of remembrance, Christmas Carol services and other events.

Heather is just one of many chaplains in the Birmingham District, where the Revd David Butterworth is lead chaplain to the National Exhibition Centre’s NEC Group and district chaplaincy coordinator.

“Heather is in the home 15 hours a week, and all the staff have got to know her,” says David. “She hosts weekly worship, music workshops and speaks on Sundays as a local preacher. Heather is always available to chat when people are dealing with tough decisions about loved ones and at times of bereavement. Because she’s not ordained she’s built up a different level of highly valued trust.”

At Jaguar Cars, Coventry, John Miles, a lay chaplain, is warmly received, playing similar roles at Coventry City Football Club and Ricoh Retail Park. John says his chaplaincy experience helps with contextual issues in church life, and he has been invited to speak at circuit meetings.

David says that when he began he expected half a dozen chaplains but now says, “There must be 100 chaplains in the District. Sometimes it’s difficult to identify them, they’re quietly getting on with it and are not on the Church missions radar.”

birmingham-david-butterworth-and-busAs NEC lead chaplain, David has been welcomed in all areas. “I’ve been invited to Board Room meetings. I’m also part of the NEC Group People Forum, representing the businesses here, and I sit in on regular Business Recovery meetings to ensure we offer holistic care in the event of a disaster.”

On the lighter side, David drew the raffle tickets at the Christmas Party for 700 staff members.

“I’m called upon if there’s a tragic event, supporting staff and their families, conducting marriage blessings and funerals.

“I support quietly those working tirelessly to offer a great visitor experience at the NEC, ICC and Barclaycard Arena.”

Each year chaplains and others who are new to wider Birmingham are invited on an open top bus tour around the city and outlying industrial and commerce heartlands.

The bus starts to travel around inner city areas of deprivation and regeneration sites following the demise of the automotive districts with stop off points at historic industrials sites such as Bourneville and Cadbury.

This is organised by CIGB (Churches in Industry Group Birmingham) David (pictured driving the bus) is part of the Leadership Group.

This article originally appeared in the connexion magazine, issue 2.
Photo of The Revd David Butterworth: © Churches in Industry Group Birmingham, TMCP