Last week Kevin and I chaired our first Mission Council. I continue to be impressed with the quality and graciousness of the debates. Mission Council is not a rubber-stamping, monochrome affair. In the debates sometimes quite widely differing views are expressed and carefully listened to. It does function as a Spirit-led council, guiding our church as we struggle with the many issues we face today. Thanks to all concerned.
On Monday Kevin and I visited the Heathrow chaplains. Purely coincidentally this was the day
before the government announced its choice for runway expansion. We met the Revd Howie Adan, an Anglican priest who is Head of Multi-Faith Chaplaincy, Paul Barker, a Baptist lay chaplain and our very own Revd John Mackerness. In total there are about 21 people who take part in chaplaincy in Heathrow, but only two are full time: Howie and John; the rest add up to about five full time equivalents. Neither Kevin nor I had any experience of this type of chaplaincy … and it was a bit of an eye opener. The two key numbers I remembered were the 75 million people who pass through Heathrow each year and the 75,000 who work there. In population terms, Heathrow is bigger than the Derbyshire Dales, North Dorset and South Bucks; and that doesn’t include the passengers! Unlike Hospital or Forces chaplaincy the churches pay for the chaplains; Heathrow Airport Limited provides the infrastructure (eg offices, prayer rooms, IT, security etc) free of charge. We did a walk about with Paul and John and it was interesting to see the warm reception they got from the staff. To ensure they are ‘visible’ the chaplains do wear Hi-Viz vests with the word chaplain on the back. As not every chaplain wears a dog collar these vests help the chaplains to stand out and for their ministry to be accepted.
Unfortunately, it also means they are asked which gate does the Boston flight leave from, where is the tube station and where is the nearest toilet! It was also good to hear that the chaplaincy team is part of the emergency response team for Heathrow, and it was even better to hear that they are not called out very often!
Finally, John arranged for us go up the viewing platform on the Control Tower, 87 metres above the terminals and taxiways. What a great view: you can see the London skyscrapers to the east and Windsor Castle to the west, in addition to all of the aircraft milling around below you. Awesome – and it also gave John the chance to chat with some of the NATS (National Air Traffic Services) guys again!