****! Whoops, sorry chaplain!
“Whoops, sorry vicar / chaplain / padre.” That usually follows an expletive which crops up in a chaplaincy conversation, or when people have said something which they feel we may disapprove of. But why do people find the need to apologise, just because the chaplain is there?
Perhaps it is because those we meet have come to think of the church, and those who represent it, as defined by what we are against rather than what we are for. Religion has become associated with negatives rather than positives.
Training new chaplains, I look for people who are fairly unshockable. Those they meet in the workplace will have complex lives, and they will hear stories which do not tidily fit in with accepted moral norms. They will hear language which may make them feel a little uncomfortable. It probably isn’t the language they would use. It wouldn’t be too good, if wearing a radio mike and leading a church service, you let loose a profanity when you knock something over!
In his encounters with people, Jesus didn’t rush to condemn. Those who received the sternest words from him were those he saw as hypocrites, religious professionals whose lives didn’t measure up to what they said. He preferred to affirm people when he saw that they were, “not far from the Kingdom of God.” He spent his time with those on the margins of society, and his stories make it clear that he was a keen observer of working people and their daily lives.
Chaplains venture into many areas of activity. As they do so they build relationships of trust, in which they can encourage people and hear about things that concern them. Criticism early on is not very helpful. Once trusted, we can help people get to work on things in their lives that they recognise may need to change.
We can help them draw nearer to Jesus. He was readily accepted by people who probably let loose a few profanities.