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Study finds chaplains are providing a ‘prophetic voice’

13 March 2015


Hands-on: the Revd Kevin Charles (above) has been appointed chaplain to the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS). He has worked for EMAS since 1980, starting as an ambulance driver, and progressing to paramedic and, eventually, to Operational Manager. He was ordained in 2011​

Hands-on: the Revd Kevin Charles (above) has been appointed chaplain to the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS). He has worked for EMAS since 198...

A STUDY of the part played by chaplaincy in modern Britain has estimated that there are currently 15,000 chaplains in the UK from every religious tradition, serving in casinos and shopping centres as well as the more traditional locations such as hospitals, prisons, and the military.

The results of the study have been published in a report, A Very Modern Ministry: Chaplaincy in the UK, by Ben Ryan, for the religion and society think tank Theos.

It says that, besides providing pastoral care and support, em-ploying organisations increasingly seek to encourage chaplains to provide a challenging "prophetic voice". It cites chaplains to Canary Wharf who explore ethics in finance; a sport chaplain who challenged his club's association with a shirt sponsor; and another chaplain who fought for low-paid staff who had not received their wages after a club had gone into administration.

"This may seem like a role which shouldn't appeal to an organisation - tantamount to troublemaking," the report says. "Yet stakeholders time and again subverted that expectation, and praised the chaplain for being able to speak up and keep an organisation honest.

"An NHS manager, for example, reported that 'Sometimes you need someone who isn't too much in the system to tell it like it is, and tell everyone what we're doing isn't the way to do things. It isn't always popular at the time, but you look back and you see why they did it.'"

The report looks in depth at chaplaincy in Luton, Bedfordshire, where, it says, there are 169 chaplains working in a variety of sectors. "This a remarkably high number for a relatively small urban area," the report says, pointing out that it equates to one chaplain for every 1200 people in the local population.

Of that number, just 14 reported that they were full-time chaplains, although the report indicates that half of those were employed by a charity, Luton Churches Education Trust, to serve local schools, "which means that, although they are full-time chaplains in practice, they are not full-time in any single school, but rather work as part-time chaplains in several schools each". When it came to funding, the report found that "only one chaplain receives a salary that is paid for entirely by the organisation for which they worked." That was a university chaplain. The report also found that "some other organisations contributed a portion of the salary - notably, the airport.

"Far more are paid by religious-belief bodies, local churches, or charitable grants. Some chaplains are not paid a salary, but do receive some financial reimbursement such as expenses or honoraria."

It found that unpaid part-time chaplains often put in significant amounts of work, and referred to a fire-service chaplain who had recorded that, in a three-month period, "she put in 168 hours of work, and 1887 miles of driving to chaplaincy work, including two funerals, bereavement support, a baptism, policy-and-procedure meetings, and 44 separate visits to fire stations across the county."

"The proverbial man in the street seems as - perhaps more - likely to meet a chaplain in his daily life today as he is to meet any other formal religious figure," Mr Ryan said. "The model is shifting from 'church' to 'chapel'."

He said that chaplaincy was a "powerful potential resource" for organisations and faith groups, and called for more research into the impact that chaplains are having on organisations and the people they minister to. "For faith and belief groups in particular," he said, "given the value of chaplaincy to them in the modern public square, there needs to be a greater priority given to strengthening and improving the impact of chaplains."


'For too long the Cinderella of ministry, it's time for chaplaincy to take centre stage' - Comment

'Forces chaplains are in, but not of, the military' - Letters

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