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The Changing Face of Chaplaincy

The Changing Face of Chaplaincy

The Theos report on chaplaincy, A Very Modern Ministry, offers some really interesting insights into the changing face of chaplaincy, especially sections on the scope of chaplaincy in Luton.

The picture of the interaction of chaplaincy with sixteen fields of social life confirms other research, showing that chaplaincy continues in strength in its traditional areas such as the university, hospital and hospice, but in such settings increasingly has multi-faith teams and multi-faith spaces (the latter complementing traditional chapels). Another traditional chaplaincy area, work in schools, is a feature in Luton too, but here it is in state secondary schools, rather than the private schools which have historically had chaplains. And chaplaincy in relation to criminal justice is extending from traditional prison ministry, to work with ex-offenders in the community and in courts of justice.

In other areas of social life chaplaincy is finding new work in place of old. In place of earlier models of chaplains in industry, Luton reveals, as elsewhere, chaplains in a variety of commercial and retail workplaces, in the airport and town centre, and with the fire & rescue service.  One very new setting for a chaplain is the casino!  Yet the constant for chaplaincy in all the areas mentioned is that of chaplains offering a pastoral presence, whatever familiar or new places they find themselves in.

The report also highlights something of the profile of chaplains. 57% of chaplains are volunteers, unpaid except for expenses, giving five hours or less per week, but offering that time regularly. Their work appears to complement and be enabled by that of the fewer full-time (9%), or part-time chaplains (19%). One message here, and from other recent research by the Cardiff Centre for Chaplaincy Studies for the Church of England, is that investment in the fewer paid chaplains offers a return in the work of the many volunteers.

The religious profile of chaplaincy is shifting in keeping with greater diversity in beliefs in society, although at first sight chaplaincy in Luton still appears to be predominantly Christian (and significantly Anglican).  On closer attention different models appear here: the multi-faith chaplaincy in public settings highlighted above; some chaplaincy with a distinctive Christian ethos; and some which is sponsored, or initiated by churches, but which works with a firm equal opportunity policy.  There is also a hint in the research data that the specific faith identity of chaplains is becoming a little less important. Lead chaplains were only able to report the faith/belief of under half of the chaplains in Luton. And chaplains there are nearly three times more likely to have completed chaplaincy-specific training than traditional church or faith community training.

Perhaps most interestingly, chaplaincy is heading into the community, both in the resettlement work with ex-offenders and in the town centre chaplaincy. This is work that might once have been thought to be the preserve of clergy based in local churches. Now chaplains are doing the work in overlap with those clergy, or faith community leaders.

The Rev Dr Andrew Todd is the Director of the Cardiff Centre for Chaplaincy Studies

Image from bbc.co.uk, available in the public domain.

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