What's the Vicar here for?
When I was first ordained, I was considering going into the RAF as a chaplain. One of the things that attracted me to military chaplaincy was the incarnational aspect of it. There is a sense in which parish ministry is incarnational in that we live amongst the people we serve – albeit in a larger house. But the military is more so – you wear their uniform, you don’t just live amongst them, you work with them, you spend your recreation time with them. In fact, you get to see people in every aspect of their life – work, rest and play.
There were a number of reasons why I decided not to go into RAF, but the thought of dealing with the whole of a person’s life didn’t go away. In parish life, we tend to see the elderly and unemployed during the day, those who go out to work, we only tend to see on a Sunday or during an evening Home Group. There are exceptions, we may see the Christian School teacher when we go into school for an assembly, or for a governors meeting – but on the whole we rarely see a person in their workplace. So in my ministry I have tried to visit some of our folk at work. Below is the account of one such visit.
Jane started coming to church following the funeral of her mum. She was a Senior Social Worker and once she started in one of our small groups, she would share about the difficulties and problems she faced at work. I asked could if I could visit her and this was very much welcomed. So it was agreed I would spend a morning with her.
To begin with, I sat in Jane’s office and she explained what her work involved, how she would deploy her staff and I asked her for things she would value prayer for. We prayed together and then she took me to meet her team. So I spent the rest of the morning talking with each member of the team in turn, starting with the lady who already came to church.
So much for the visit, but it was what happened afterwards that was great. Jane’s team wanted to know what I had come in for. Jane’s reply was that I was her vicar and had just come to visit her to try and understand what she did so I could pray for her in a more knowledgeable way. This got the office talking and Jane soon discovered there was another Christian in her team – so suggested that maybe all 3 could get together to pray at the beginning of each day. They not only prayed, but read the Bible together and shared some thoughts and found it to be a great blessing.
Once the other members of the office discovered what was going on, they all said ‘we are not Christians, but can we join in, as we have noticed how calm you have all started being at work.’ So the whole team met together each day for prayer and Bible Reading. It opened up all sorts of opportunities for Jane to invite her non-Christian colleagues to come to her confirmation, Back to Church Sunday, Carol service and the like.
These colleagues don’t come to church on a regular basis and Jane has since retired. But just that one visit opened up all sorts of evangelistic opportunities and enabled Jane and her friend to feel supported and valued in the work that they did.
Since then I have visited a number of other folk at their place of work – it doesn’t bring about the same dramatic results, but it does bridge that gap between church and workplace.