Loitering with Godly intent

Published on: 1 November 2017

Archdeacon Karen explores chaplaincy in the workplace.

When I was selected for training for ordination, I don’t remember anyone mentioning chaplaincy as an option. All the conversations and preparation seemed to be pointing squarely in the direction of parish ministry, with little awareness of anything else. And parish ministry seemed to be very focused on Sundays – with little awareness or discussion of the challenges or opportunities that people faced on the other six days of the week.

And yet Christian mission is being carried out every day in a diverse range of settings that have little to do with parish churches. In terms of recognised or authorised ministries, we can probably all think of a few chaplains we’ve come across, in hospital, prison, army, school or colleges. These days you can discover chaplains in shopping centres, airports, theatres, and other workplaces. Usually accountable to a secular organisation, the chaplain has to translate their Christian faith and principles into the language and behaviour of that entity.

It’s a deeply incarnational ministry. Instead of putting on services or events and inviting people to come to us, chaplains put on the uniform of the organisation, and go where people are.

One chaplain once described it to me as ‘loitering with Godly intent’, and that seems to sum it up. For a chaplain, it’s rarely the destination of their journey round their ‘patch’ that matters, but the people you bump into on the way. Pastoral conversations are not squeezed into a diary ahead of time, but unfold when the time and place feel right.

Chaplains probably have more opportunities to encounter non-Christians than many parish clergy, and so bear a heavy responsibility as they represent the Christian faith, and often come in for much projected anger. I was reminded of 1 Peter 3:15 ‘Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence’.

Chaplains may often be asked why they believe in God, and where God is in a particular situation. With gentleness and reverence, they have a chance to share some of that hope, and the potential to give a wonderful gift to the person who asks them.

That’s an approach to life that we could all learn from – and we don’t need to be ‘official’ chaplains to do it. Looking for God at work, wherever we are, is the task and joy of every Christian. Making time to ‘loiter with Godly intent’, asking God who in all the many people we encounter most needs a word, a smile, some extra attention. And being ready to speak of God ‘with gentleness and reverence’. In our own words, sharing our own journey, being ourselves, wherever God leads us.

This article is from...

Articles in this issue...

God at work

We spend most of our waking hours interacting with other people: at home, in our workplace, in a volunteer role, taking part in sporting or other activities. Biddy Collyer takes a look at how we share our faith outside of our "Sunday lives"


Loving and serving the Lord in the workplace

Audrey Sharp discusses the challenge of living out our Christian faith actively and intentionally in the workplace.


Face to Faith – Stephen Andrews

Stephen is a workplace chaplain in Great Yarmouth to Asda, NORSE, Camplings Linen Services and the Borough Services. He is also a Trust Chaplain at the James Paget University Hospital and is an associate priest in the Great Yarmouth Team Ministry.


God in children’s work at school

Just like many adults, young people spend a large proportion of their day 'at work'; school, A place where, similarly to adults, they attend for set hours, meet and interact with peers, complete tasks, learn skill sets, are encouraged to develop and undergo regular review. We asked four people from across the Diocese to share what they do as Christians in supporting young people in schools.


Making Christ present – Being chaplain to the police

Fr Christopher Wood talks about his roles as Chaplain to Norfolk Constabulary and to people bereaved by suicide.


Spiritual health in times of illness

Helen Garrard is Lead Chaplain to Colman and Norwich Community Hospitals. The role has grown to incorporate providing and managing chaplaincy care in 10 community hospitals within the Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust.


A night out with Norwich Street Partnership: City Pastors

8.30pm on a Saturday evening in mid-November. No glitzy shoes or sparkly top for my night out: solid walking boots and layers of warm clothes. Then it's time to go through the city, looking and listening to the hustle and various groups who are setting off for celebrations.


A very modern ministry: chaplaincy

At a time when our society seems increasingly dominated by secular habits and assumptions, and when religious attendance and affiliation seems to be in decline, chaplaincy remains a public face of faith in a variety of situations. Chris Copsey takes a look at this diverse ministry in Norfolk and Waveney.


Keep up to date

Subscribe to our eNews for a snapshot of news, events and resources, usually emailed once a fortnight

Signup to newsletter