Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Chaplains and Churches

Good day yesterday at the triennial Baptist Union sector ministries (chaplains) day in Sutton Coldfield.  I was speaking on Truth and Compromise: Dilemmas in Sector Ministry.  More importantly though I got the chance to listen in on the chaplains' discussions and join in a couple of Q&R sessions.  I was struck by the thoughtful, sensitive and missional approach that this group of men and women take to what is a challenging and sometimes lonely ministry.  An important ministry too and one that is often misunderstood and undervalued.

Chaplains are as much pioneer ministers as any involved in Fresh Expressions or other forms of church planting.  They are engaged in caring and bearing witness in places and among people where church presence is usually very thin on the ground.  Whether responding to radical Islamist students on university campuses, dealing with some of the most demanding issues of medical ethics or plunging in the name of Christ into the swirling seas of contemporary British spirituality, chaplains operate at the cutting edge of the church's engagement with our society.

My main observation reflecting on the day is just how much both our congregations and our chaplains would gain from finding a better thought-out and more substantial relationship than is often the case.  The chaplains would appreciate the opportunity for sensitive accountability and the chance to reflect with supportive and thoughtful Christians from beyond the world of sector ministry. Also our churches would be hugely enriched by being able to share the insights gleaned by these front-line ministers and to join in wrestling with the kind of important missional issues that are the bread and butter of chaplaincy.

So let's hear it for chaplains and let's make sure we hear more from chaplains.

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