The Working World - a place for Chaplaincy, Discipleship, Vocation and Evangelism
John’s Gospel tells of the risen Jesus meeting his disciples by the Sea of Galilee. They had returned to their old work, spending the night fishing, but not catching anything. Bible commentators generally pass over the working life of the disciples and put this down to an impulsive decision, made without careful consideration and prayer. But one writer offered a more realistic view of the disciples’ situation and work: “These men needed to eat.”
All too often the church has had a low view of the value of people’s working lives. The impression grew that what really mattered was what people did for the church, and “vocation” came to be associated with becoming a minister.Industrial chaplaincy began after the Second World War as one way of correcting this with chaplains, usually clergy, visiting workplaces. It was, and is today, a valuable ministry, alongside and supporting people at work, tracing signs of God’s presence in the workplace, and able to offer the insights and understanding gained there to the wider church.
It is important that specialist ministries such as chaplaincy are connected with, and their value recognised by, the church.
Many churches are taking the working lives of their members seriously, helped by materials such as the “Front Line” courses produced by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. God is as much in the workplace on a Monday morning as He is in the church on a Sunday. And this can prompt people to volunteer as chaplains.Church members, ideally local people, often with experience of the public sector, industry and commerce, are well placed to visit workplaces, to offer a listening ear, to learn, to encourage and to affirm. Chaplaincy which springs from the local church can be an effective part of its mission and ministry, helping to maintain and to develop relationships with the workplaces and community around them.
BCUIM and other chaplaincy organisations endeavour to facilitate this ministry with local churches. We encourage Christians to see their working lives as a place where their discipleship and vocation are expressed and may grow.We offer training in chaplaincy skills, introductions to businesses and ongoing connection and support for voluntary chaplains.
From the call of the first disciples onwards, fishing has been used as a metaphor for evangelism. Might it be that a renewed focus on the working world, as a place of Christian discipleship and chaplaincy, would be like casting our nets on the other side of the boat, resulting in an enormous catch, as it did that morning they met the risen Christ?