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FEEDBACK on the work we do as chaplains is always welcome but we will not disclose identities or personal details without people's express consent. In each of these case studies, names, gender, job description and other details have been changed for reasons of confidentiality:

Emma, a retail assistant in a department store shares her experience of talking to a chaplain in her workplace: “I have never really had any interest in religion. I thought assemblies at school were boring and stupid, but wasn’t really anti-God. I suppose I always thought there probably was a God but didn’t think that had anything to do with me.

“When my mum was diagnosed with cancer, I was devastated. I couldn’t think straight. I had some time off work. My boss was very good but when I went back, no-one knew what to say to me. It was really awkward and I felt so alone. My work suffered and my boss had to speak to me. He was obviously embarrassed but told me if I didn’t pull my weight it would be out of his hands. He suggested I speak to the chaplain. I wasn’t sure at first but thought it couldn’t do any harm.

The chaplain was great, she just seemed to understand, didn’t offer any easy answers but just listened and was there when I needed her. I thought she would tell me to go to church but that was never mentioned until I began to ask questions and she suggested I meet up with a local group who were running a course all about difficult questions. I didn’t go but I am still thinking about it. She asked if she could pray for me and Mum and it felt good to know someone would do that.

“Mum is still very ill and life is still difficult but I am coping and I know I can turn to the chaplain any time. My boss is happier too, he doesn’t know what we talk about but says he sees a big difference in me and thinks he should speak to the chaplain too. I think he should.”

John is a well-liked and respected junior manager. Lately John has been short with staff and results from his sector are declining. Encouragement and challenges from line managers have no effect.

One day over coffee John confides in the chaplain that his three-year-old daughter has a life-limiting illness. He finds it hard to focus and is unable to support his wife at hospital appointments. He does not want anyone to know, as he feels it will affect his promotion prospects. The chaplain listens and supports John in absolute confidence until he agrees to speak to his line manager and to access some of the support systems the company offer.

John is given a short period of compassionate leave and is able to establish structures which allow him to return to work in a happier and more focused state. His work improves and, eventually, he is promoted in recognition of his potential which is once more evident.The machine grinds on efficiently, unaware of the judicious application of a little oil.

Jim owns a small business: Reeling from the sudden death of his mother without warning, 30-year-old Jim knew he was relying too much on alcohol to keep going.

An only son, he was left to deal with everything as his devastated father buckled under his own grief. Jim’s fledgling graphics business suffered as he tried to spread himself too thinly between all his responsibilities. Customers were beginning to press him on completion dates and a new contract hung in the balance.

“I don’t think I’d still be here if the chaplain hadn’t called in that day,” he recalls. “He gently supported me and let me get things off my chest. I thought I was going to lose everything, including the roof over our heads. My wife was really scared. I could see nothing but blackness ahead and wasn’t sleeping. I couldn’t concentrate. My head felt wooden. To be honest I think I was starting to feel like ending it all, just to escape, when the chaplain picked up on the underlying thread of what I was saying. Sensitively he drew it out of me and helped me get the support I needed. He saw me regularly and made sure I realised he genuinely cared about my wellbeing and future. 

I think he saved my life.There are still times when I feel sad, but the hopelessness has gone. I know I can cope now and my wife says she’s got me back again. That is thanks to the chaplain. He never came out with trite phrases or seemed shocked. He just listened to me and it's amazing how that helped. 

Margaret:"When you talk, we listen,’ proclaimed the poster giving contact details for our Work Place Chaplain. Little did I realise that I would be the one who needed to call on the services of the Chaplain and how invaluable I would find the offer of someone to listen, in complete confidence, while I talked about the issues I was facing. Suddenly, and without warning, my world was turned upside down - my job was in jeopardy and I was potentially facing dismissal.

"Left feeling very bruised and vulnerable, I had no idea where to turn for support and it seemed there was no-one with whom I could share my concerns. During his next regular visit to my workplace, I blurted out my woes and quietly, kindly, he suggested I contact him directly.

"On several occasions, over coffee, the Chaplain listened sensitively and attentively to what I had to say, without being judgmental or trying to ‘fix’ me. In retrospect, I realise that this was the first time that anyone had ever paid me the compliment of being there for me, really listening to me and hearing what I had to say. At a time when I felt seriously undervalued and powerless to do anything to improve the situation, it was a real blessing to me that he allowed me time to chat, with never the slightest hint that he was disinterested or distracted, or had somewhere else he would rather be. Occasionally challenging, always compassionate and with a sense of humour - I am so grateful that the Chaplain was willing to come alongside and journey with me when the going got particularly tough.

"The job situation was eventually resolved but his caring and concern didn’t stop there. When it became obvious that there were other pressing issues that needed to be dealt with, he suggested other avenues that might be explored, directing me to people with more specific knowledge and skills, who would be better equipped to provide support.

"After meeting the Chaplain for the first time, staff members have often commented how pleasantly surprised they are to find how approachable he is. Instead of someone who fits the stereotypical image of a minister who is out of touch with reality and the issues affecting everyday life, they find a regular, down-to-earth person who is comfortable chatting with anyone on any topic, from the latest football scores to the big issues of life. They find someone who sees the intrinsic value in each person and is available and accessible to them, especially when circumstances cause them to question their own worth. You don’t have to be ‘sorted’ or to have a faith because the Chaplain takes you as he finds you and has no expectations of who or what you should be. What matters is the issues you’re facing and what you want to talk about. He’ll meet you where you’re at, not where you’d like to be.

"I don’t know the circumstances that prompted my employer to appoint a Work Place Chaplain, but he has been a godsend. When it seemed there was no place to turn, and no-one who would listen while I voiced my concerns, worries and fears, the Work Place Chaplain was there. For others, too, he provides a vital lifeline. When life, as it invariably does, gets messy and what’s needed is a sympathetic, non-judgmental, listening ear and a companion on the journey, the Work Place Chaplain is there – accepting, valuing, serving.

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