IN EXCHANGE for the clerical suit, the hi-viz jacket; for the furnishings of a quiet chapel, the screaming machinery of a production line. Priests who take on workplace chaplaincy must significantly adjust their expectations and modus operandi. In Faith on the Factory Floor (Radio 4, Monday and Wednesday of last week), Alan Dein met some of those who have taken on such responsibility, in both old and new industries.
Industrial Mission in this country owes its creation to Leslie Hunter, Bishop of Sheffield during and after the Second World War. He recognised the distance, physically and culturally, between munitions factories, built outside large centres of population, and the Church, which was based largely in those centres.
In the programme, we met the Revd Mike West, who, continuing the kind of work originally pioneered by Bishop Hunter, engages with workers at British Aerospace and Vauxhall Motors, often mid-shift. The ambient noise creates a strange but effective privacy for confessional conversation. We also met Prebendary Fiona Stewart-Darling, a member of the multi-faith chaplaincy at Canary Wharf. She offers “the old-fashioned kitchen table” to those deracinated by long commutes and high-stress working patterns.
In neither scenario can authority be assumed, in contrast with that of a church. People do not necessarily know why you are there, and respect must be earned. As a model for ministry in contemporary Britain, workplace chaplaincy may prove indispensable.
Finding the right faith-based podcast for you is a laborious exercise in Goldilocksian empiricism. Some podcasts are way too soft; many are a good deal too hard. In Mid-Faith Crisis (midfaithcrisis.org; released every Saturday), your reviewer has found something that fits relatively well with the particular curvature of his spine and fleshiness of posterior. OK: so the presenters, Joe Davis and Nick Page, spend way too much time laughing at their own jokes before getting to the point, but that goes for 90 per cent of the podcast repertory. With almost 250 episodes now in the can, they clearly have both stamina and some kind of fan base.
In last week’s episode, the notional point of discussion was the value of glossolalia in contemporary worship — a question that, once they got round to it, was summarily dispatched. But, on the way, one encountered nuggets of real wisdom, nestled within aggreeable and occasionally bizarre banter. Thus we were treated to “The Song of the Chiffchaff”, a ChatGPT-generated worship song, which is not quite bad enough to be laughable or good enough to be serviceable. It is, in fact, a worship song for Goldilocks.
The World Service has established an impressive catalogue of box-set podcasts. Fukushima (episodes released every Monday) maintains the high standard, in a drama by Adrian Penket, which relates the events of March 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. Through the account run themes of power and responsibility, deference and reputation, which, at every point, affect crucial decisions. But it is also a drama about loss and pain “in a country where you are not allowed to be in pain”.