Presenting Christianity to a Sceptical World?
This is me (Anthony Harris) standing by a cross that was used on the Walk of Witness trail in Walsall Town Centre, which re-enacts the crucifixion of Christ. Now being Christians, we understand the importance of the cross, and the good news of the Gospel. The cross also helps us to think about how a person can have a relationship with God and truly know about his amazing love and have a sense of peace in their lives.
However, there are so many people who live in the town who will not believe in religion. So how can a Chaplain present Christianity to those sceptics? Being a Chaplain for me means being out there, meeting people where they are in the midst of life, joys and sorrows, the messiness and busyness of the everyday.
Now like any Chaplain who has been out on the front line, sometimes you feel that you have no effect wherever their chaplaincy maybe. Over a seven year period I have had moments when I will ask God,“What effect is this ministry having on the town?”
I visit around 100 retail shops and I encounter the public while doing chaplaincy. Out of those retail shops 70% will engage with me and 30% still have questions what I actually do, or people aren’t interested. The 30% is what I’m very interested in because I can walk into a retail unit and speak with a manager or shop assistant and it seems nothing is happening.
However I learnt a great lesson one day while out and about doing the Chaplaincy. One day I walked into a phone shop I have visited over the years to deliver a newsletter. Normally I might be lucky to get small talk and then leave the shop saying thank you and God bless you all. But this time one of the members of staff stopped me and started to talk to me. He shared that I have had an effect on him and the shop because I have always been interested on how they are doing in life. It turns out those 1 minute conversations planted a seed because they recognised I am actually bothered and I see the importance of their wellbeing.
Another time out and about I walked into a tattoo shop that I visit and I walked through the door and I noticed all the staff seemed saddened. I asked what had happened. It turned out one of the staff had their Nan pass away that day. I was privileged to be there and give my condolences to the person and family.
So how am I presenting Christianity to those around me? I have learnt that I’m sharing my faith by the way I live my life and how I am around others. Mainly how I share God’s grace, love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, peace with those around me. Chaplaincy is definitely an opportunity to do this. But I do sense the greatest effect is our presence and listening in our own context of ministry. By doing this we somehow bring a sense of peace to those we encounter and the situation.
Chaplaincy in a Christian context is people who understand the joy and brokenness of life and the brokenness that people findthemselves. We are people who are presence acting like a sponge and listening soaking up all the moans and groans of life. Thus those who have shared their story may sense God’s peace.
There are so many theological reflections on the topic of peace I could go through however ill deal with one. Mark 9:50 salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltiness, with which will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.
There are a number of ways to view this piece of scripture but what I noticed in Ellicott’s commentary that the reference to salt is good. There seems to be words to the visible community of believers, the church of Christ preserving the world from corruption. I would like to call it preserving the world from brokenness. Salt seems to be the chief or only preservative of peace.
What if chaplains somehow sprinkle salt of peace to places and people we encounter? What if Jesus gave us the church an insight we carry salt in us and we are somehow preserving society even when people don’t realise this reality?
I do feel that is a very important point to reflect on that has we listen and take in people’s Joys and brokenness in the background we are praying that God will somehow act in that situation. I realise this more and more even though they might never ask us a theology question or anything spiritual when out and about doing thechaplaincy. Lifting up prayers to God of the people we have encountered allows the room for God to work in those people’s lives.
From experience I can really share that Chaplaincy can help break down so many perceptions of Christianity in our society because when we accept people where they are in life. They can see we are open hearted the possibilities of how God can work in that situation is limitless.
Nobody can measure what a chaplain does because the effect a person has on others can be so profound. We are sharing the good news the Gospel through our lives because we are ambassadors of Christ. We are people who are listening to the context of where we serve andpraying into those situations.
But simply I’m a friendly face representing the local church and building up relationships with those around and encountering them in their most important moments.
“To walk alongside”