What does an Airport Chaplain do?

I recently wrote an article for the Newcastle Anglican Newspaper July/August 2011 Edition. The original article was shortened but I’ve included it in it’s entirety for your reading pleasure.

Co Pilot Tom Worsley

“To some people, I know the idea of heaven would be to sit in the cockpit of Concorde and I found myself doing just that a few weeks ago and have the photograph to prove it. Alas this magnificent aircraft was going nowhere; it was parked in a purpose built hangar as one of the attractions at the Manchester Runway Visitor Park. Not my idea of heaven, but it was a memorable way to round off a lunch break. The Park was the venue for a meeting of the British Isles and Eire Airport Chaplains Network.

Lindisfarne students are required to complete a chaplaincy placement as part of their training. Northumbrian Industrial Mission (NIM) has 45 chaplains, ministering in a range of workplaces across the area and I chose Airport Chaplaincy. It has been a great experience and real privilege to work at Newcastle International Airport alongside Charlotte Osborn who leads the team there.

“What exactly do chaplains do? It’s a frequently asked question and difficult to answer It’s about building trust, building relationships, showing compassion, being a visible reminder that there is more to life than meeting the next deadline or target, being available as an impartial listener without threat of confidentiality being broken, or judgment resulting, for those of all faiths or none. It is also about being there, a ministry of presence, as presence precedes proclamation. It’s about listening to the stories of life and telling the stories of faith.” (From ‘A Wing and a Prayer’ an article by Charlotte Osborn, reproduced with kind permission).

Meeting of delegates from the British Isles and Eire Airport Chaplains Network

Getting to know the airport-based personnel is a key part. The fire station, baggage handlers, maintenance unit, police helicopter, the fuel farm; food and beverage outlets, Departure Lounge and retail staff; air traffic control tower, all airside operations, security staff, administration staff, senior managers, visiting airline staff, Aviation Academy, Airport Police, Customs and Immigration and terminal staff. All have their part to play in the day to day running of the airport.

From my own experience and conversations over the past weeks, the work of an airport chaplain is one of brief personal encounters and due to shift patterns etc these encounters are often followed by silence. It is about working and relating in that brief moment of meeting, wherever it may be.

Meeting of delegates from the British Isles and Eire Airport Chaplains Network

More information about the work of Northumbrian Industrial Mission (NIM) is available on their website. Newcastle chaplains are members of The International Association of Civil Aviation Chaplains (IACAC) which, lists on its website more than 160 chaplaincy locations throughout the world. Something to keep in mind during summer holiday travels.

So next time you pass through Newcastle International Airport, look behind you as you queue for the security check, and, if you have time, please call in to the Chaplaincy Room and pray for a moment that the presence of God might be known throughout the airport community.”

Tom Worsley © Copyright 2011

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