In February 2009, Paul Morris became vicar at St. Peter’s, and brought with him a vision for city centre chaplaincy as a result of seeing this ministry in Watford. He was impressed with what he had seen there – it was fruitful, effective, ecumenical, missional, and involved more than 25 chaplains.
Paul believed there was a place for a chaplaincy ministry here, and was encouraged to read in the job description for St. Peter’s: The church sees its mission as extending to those who live, work, shop or pass through the parish but with whom we have little or no contact.
So the journey began, a journey which has led in a short space of time down many unexpected and exciting avenues! Chaplaincy is definitely not a St. Peter’s venture but a thoroughly ecumenical one with more than 20 chaplains, lay and ordained, from 10 different churches.
There are other key stakeholders, such as Workplace Chaplaincy in Derbyshire, Churches Together in Derbyshire, City Vision and City Centre Churches and of course the management at Intu, the Bid Boards of Cathedral Quarter and St. Peter’s Quarter and store managers throughout the city.
We believe chaplaincy is a tremendous evangelistic and pastoral opportunity. We’re able to offer pastoral care that meets people where they are in the complexity and sometimes mess of everyday life, rather than expecting them to come to us. It allows us to engage in meaningful and purposeful conversations, breaking out of the constraints of church and churchy language that can hold us back. It invites people to find out more about following Christ. And it enables members of our churches to make real connections between work and faith and to grow as disciples.
This is an emerging vision, and we’re just beginning to discover the many possibilities and opportunities that chaplaincy presents. And there’s certainly no doubt that chaplaincy is greatly needed. Very early on when Paul arrived and visited stores to explain more about the chaplaincy, he spoke in one store with the Assistant Manager about the chaplaincy, and within a minute she interrupted him with the words, ‘and about time too!’ She had not been well, had staff facing challenges who came and talked to her and she was grateful that she and her staff would soon have a chaplain. And it really is about time too!
Where the future will take us, we don’t know. We’re excited to have chaplains in many different sectors in the city centre, including retail, business, social care, education, courts, entertainment and sport. But above all for us, chaplaincy is about reaching out to people on the very edges, people who wouldn’t naturally have contact with church, who might not be confident to even approach the church, but who need to know God’s love for them.
In Jeremiah 29 God says to the people – seek the peace, the shalom, the wholeness, of the city where you live. That’s what we’re doing. This is God’s work, in God’s place, where God’s Spirit is already at work.
If you would like to know more, contact Rev. Canon Paul Morris on firstname.lastname@example.org