Workplace chaplaincy supports both people at work and customers, clients or visitors in a wide variety of working environments.  There are chaplaincies in town centres, retail centres, supermarkets, manufacturing, emergency services, agriculture, waterways, professional sport, casinos and racing, city and town council offices, airports, courts, building sites, public transport... Workplace chaplaincy is one of the most varied areas of chaplaincy. 

Present, Pastoral, Prophetic

A workplace chaplain is an intentional presence to offer a listening ear and engage in workplace issues as and when appropriate. Intentional presence means visiting the workplace, networking, establishing rapport and relationship, being approachable and offering pastoral care.

Over time this usually results in winning the right to be noticed and heard. Once trust is gained and a listening ear service offered, employees at all levels in the organisation may approach the chaplain informally or using contact details when in need of help.

Workplace chaplaincy may involve supporting individual employees or sometimes whole departments in a crisis. This may range from a sudden unexpected tragedy, stress, redundancy both individual and personal or affecting whole departments.

It often involves working across all levels (shop floor, managers, directors) and sometimes collaborating with other departments such as Occupational Health, Human Resources or Trades Unions when dealing with organisational or individual issues.

Out of the listening ear work or sometimes just by being observant a chaplain will often identify organisational issues. Engaging with them with an ethical view informed by gospel values is what chaplains usually described as being prophetic. This can involve being in the role of a critical friend to the organisation, engaging with issues of justice or commending and encouraging good business practice, policies or actions. When done in the right way the chaplain is often respected as an honest broker by both sides for example by both management and union in an industrial dispute situation.

Videos featuring Workplace Chaplaincy

Quotes from Workplace Chaplains

"As a chaplain in the workplace I can be Christ’s hands & feet to people in the families where many spend most of their waking hours. As a chaplain I can take Christ back to many who no longer trust ‘church’ but who still need His love. In the last year a chaplain present in Hi-vis has said far more about Christ to essential workers than when they see locked churches." (David Slater, Chaplain to the Port of Dover and Channel Tunnel)

"Christian ministry is not about retreat from life as it's lived, workplace chaplaincy is about real life." (Christopher Lewis, East Swansea Community Chaplain)

"I describe my role in airport chaplaincy as “Loving the airport on God’s behalf”. The strangest question you can ask a chaplain is, “What are you going to do today?”, because you never know what opportunities God will put in your path. As a workplace chaplain, you will have “talking days”, when you have meaningful conversations with people, and “non-talking days”, where nobody wants to speak with you. This is normal! You keep showing up, and the conversations will come." (The Revd Dr Moira Biggins, East Midlands Airport Chaplaincy Team)

"It’s such a privilege, but also very rewarding, to be a retail chaplain. I work with shop assistants, retail managers, whose working lives are spent serving people and often getting abuse. As a chaplain I can share their burdens, listen to their stories and show them the love of Christ - sometimes the only kind words they will hear during the day." (Andrew Green, Wycombe Workplace Chaplaincy)

Chaplaincy is for everyone

We often say things like ‘chaplaincy is for everyone’ or ‘chaplaincy is for all in the workplace whether MD or toilet cleaner’.

I find people are reassured by this, until they see me speaking to someone who in their eyes I perhaps shouldn’t be talking to that is! This has happened to me several times recently. People like me taking them seriously, but aren’t so happy when I spend time with someone with learning difficulties who they find very hard to relate to, or a homeless person begging in the town centre, or the man on trial for a serious crime. Then they think I’m a bit odd, or mad, or perhaps bad myself.

But God loves everyone, even those we don’t find easy, those we struggle to understand, or those whose behaviour we could never condone. No-one is beyond God’s concern, and so they oughtn’t to be beyond the chaplain’s concern either.

Mary Vickers (industrial chaplain)

Community Life

The ASDA supermarket chain recently launched “Community Life”, a project which aims to involve their stores with the lives of the people in their local communities and so build up a familiarity with their customers and gain their trust as a caring organisation.

And that’s an echo of what industrial chaplaincy is all about. Each time I visit a store in my capacity as Retail Chaplain, I’m working to build friendly and trusting relationships with the staff at both management and shop floor levels, and I often have conversations with customers too, who are surprised to find the church in their local store!

At a time when fewer people have any kind of meaningful contact with a church, or, indeed, are suspicious or derisive about the Christian faith, it’s a wonderful opportunity to affirm the presence of God in the world and his concern for every aspect of human life.

Lynne Ward (retail chaplain)

Greater Manchester Police

My Chaplaincy work is with the Greater Manchester Police. I work with some twenty-seven Police Chaplains drawn from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism. But our role is not to sell our brand of faith but walk alongside all the men and women of the police service whatever their role. Staff talk to us about many things:

Their emotions after the death of a child in a road traffic collision.

The anguish after visiting a newly bereaved family.

A 999 operator who has had to deal with a harrowing phone call

A member of the rape team who has had to sensitively talk to a young girl who has been violently abused.

A member of staff whose partner has died or whose son has become a drug addict.

Chaplaincy is not so much taking God to the front line, but rather disclosing his presence in the toughness of life and living.

Charles Nevin (police chaplain)

Newbury Town Chaplains

“Among you, with you, for you – a caring listening ear.” This is what we seek to be to the retail sector in our town.

Retail staff are under great pressure particularly in these difficult economic times. A new shopping mall was about to open opposite Newbury Methodist Church. My former life in retail and inspired by work of our deacon Shirley, elsewhere, the chaplaincy idea was born…

Now pairs of chaplains walk round the market and Kennet Centre every Thursday, offering a smile and encouragement. Retailers are now starting to trust and share in conversations with us – occasionally the subject of Jesus has arisen!

The new shopping area has now opened. Late afternoon chaplaincy has been welcomed there.

My vision is for Town Chaplains – in their distinctive gilets – visiting all parts of the retail section in Newbury on a weekly basis.

Maree Farrimond (town chaplain)


‘Come and see…’ was the invitation from Leeds Bradford Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting Service.

Usually I see them in the common room sharing a cuppa discussing things like ‘you have that nativity thing at your church at Easter don’t you.’ (A long conversation ensued sharing the Jesus story and how the church year reflects that). They wanted me to witness what they really do.

I joined them on a day’s training. They placed me in a full size replica of a 747 and set fire to it! They love their Airport Chaplain – Nick the Vic as I’m known.

Witnessing the heat, the team work and, if the worst does happen, the willingness to risk their lives in intolerable conditions for people such as you and me was a real privilege.

‘Come and see’ is the invitation by Christ (John 1) to go beyond the walls and discover new life.

Nick Baker (airport chaplain)

Offering prayers in difficult times

I visited one shop manager in December. He talked bitterly about year-end sales targets imposed by head office, which he felt he had no control over. It was a quiet moment, and I offered to pray for his business. We asked God to bless sales and customers.

When I called back in January, the business had met the targets. Since then, his holding company faced closure. The manager and his deputy talked to me about their fears and sense of powerlessness, and we prayed for a good resolution.

Within a week, another chain had bought the store, jobs were safe and salaries even rose slightly. I believe he recognises something bigger than himself at work in his life and business. He is no longer bitter and we talk regularly.

The theology of praying for good business results is open to questions, and I don’t know all the answers. What I do know is that it helps people with troubles they can’t solve when they give them to God. It can free people from anxiety and the destructive culture of blame that thrives in many organisations. I think God approves.

Howard Rowe (city centre chaplain)

Chaplain to the Ambulance Service

My ambulance chaplaincy began when the senior chaplain and one of the non-executive directors of the Kent Ambulance Trust rang my doorbell in 2003, an encounter that led to my visiting Sevenoaks Ambulance Station for the next eight years.

It was a slow beginning. Almost every week I would arrive at the station, often to find nobody there. This improved once I discovered that ambulance crews nearly always took their meal breaks at the home station, and I gradually began to form relationships.

It took time to break down the suspicion of paramedics who had not had much experience of chaplains. Some, like me, had been in the armed forces, which helped; so did having my dog with me from time to time.

I now visit Ashford Make Ready Centre as regularly as possible, along with deacon Sue Hibberd, a colleague in the South Kent Circuit. Every now and again I join an ambulance crew for the day (or night). Visiting the Make Ready Centre or a response post is workplace chaplaincy – just like visiting the shop floor or office staff in a commercial or industrial setting.

The difference is that the staff we visit may have just picked up somebody’s remains under a motorway bridge or along a railway track; failed to resuscitate a young person who had been talking to them moments before; or delivered a still-born baby. They may have spent all day picking up old people, or all night picking up drunks and victims of violence.

In other respects they are normal human beings with all the pressures faced by other human beings: family concerns, economic worries, health issues (backs are particularly at risk) and sometimes, in these troubled times, low morale at work or uncertainty about the future.

Peter Hills (ambulance service chaplain)

Commercial confidentiality

Like other chaplains, workplace chaplains are used to dealing with all sorts of ethical dilemmas. We’re also used to keeping confidences, both personal and commercial, and to being with people who’re experiencing both good and bad economic news.

All these aspects came together for me recently when a major supermarket chain announced that it was to build a new food processing plant in the area bringing so many new jobs. Everyone seemed excited – with good reason you might think. I too wanted to join in the excitement – it is good news for the area’s economy.

However, I was also conscious of the firms in the area who have existing contracts to process food for this chain – would those contracts and hence jobs be lost? If so, would there even be a net gain in jobs after all? It was hard to give a balanced reaction without giving away confidential commercial information.

Mary Vickers (industrial chaplain)

For more information check out our Chaplaincy Resources and Links and Chaplaincy Reading pages.

Check out these Chaplaincy Blog posts too:
The joy of police chaplaincy
A challenging thought: being vulnerable in chaplaincy
Bet Your Life: reflections on chaplaincy at the races
Racecourse Chaplaincy
Fire Service Chaplaincy
Chaplaincy to Industry
Partnering beyond Church
All souls take flight in Newcastle
From care homes to Crufts 
A Methodist gamble
Port pastor
Nightclub chaplaincy

These external links may also be of interest:
Retiring Dyfed-Powys Police chaplain says it's been the 'greatest years' of his career
What is the role of a football club chaplain?
Chaplain promises support to the UK's 'railway family' in wake of Stonehaven train crash

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You will find contact details on our Chaplaincy Contacts page.