Shaved at the airport

08 November 2006


by Margaret Duggan

HE DELIBERATELY sets out to be a maid-of-all-work at Gatwick Airport. The Anglican Chaplain, the Revd Jonathan Baldwin, roams far and wide, from the control tower to fire station, from the immigration centre to the checkouts, from the hotels to the cleaners’ room, often working alongside those who staff them. “It is good to get to know them,” he says; “and it is good that they get to know me, so that, if we have to deal with an emergency, they know who I am.” He is the only full-time chaplain, though he has part-time colleagues from other churches.

Gatwick, in Chichester diocese, is the second-largest of London’s airports, and is often the base for those returning from disaster areas. After the tsunami devastation on Boxing Day 2004, stricken holidaymakers were returning every day for the following two to three weeks, he tells me; and it was the same after other floods and the Bali bomb.

He also helps administer the Gatwick Travel-care charity, which helps stranded passengers. The charity has a small fund for loans to people in immediate financial difficulties. It can also help British people sent home from prisons abroad. They arrive with absolutely nothing, the Chaplain says, and the charity can provide funds for them to get home. But the money is limited, most of it coming as small grants from the airport and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and so he has been trying to raise some by having a sponsored head-shave in memory of several colleagues, and relatives of colleagues, who have recently died of cancer.

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