I was born in Banbury in 1938, grew up in Edgware and went to Haberdashers School in Hampstead. I served Queen and Country from 1957-59, went to a theological college near London for three years, got married in 1965 and then drove London buses for eighteen months. I went back to a theological college in Oxford (sounds grander than it was!), and was ordained in 1968 as a Church of England clergyman. I started in Bletchley, which was swallowed up by the new Milton Keynes, and discovered ecumenism and New Towns. I then went to Washington (the north-eastern one), followed by Chelmsley Wood near Birmingham. In 1976 I took up Industrial Mission (IM) in the (then new) Black Country Urban Industrial Mission, living in Dudley. I worked in the Round Oak Steel Works Ltd. and several engineering firms, and with the Merry Hill Shopping Centre which was built on the land made available with the closure of Round Oak. Then I saw an advert for an IM post being set up with Eurotunnel UK based in Folkestone, and was fortunate to be appointed in 1989.
So, from 1989 until February of 2003 I was a member of Kent Industrial Mission (nowadays called Kent Workplace Mission), which operates in the county of Kent, the Unitary Authority of the Medway towns, and the two London boroughs of Bromley and Bexley. Here you'll find more about industrial mission in Kent.
Industrial Mission chaplaincy is very much a ministry of accompaniment. It's a great privilege to be allowed into the work sphere as someone who has almost free access to everyone and everywhere, and able to meet and talk with folk about the things that are important in their lives, of which their work is one of the most important. It is clear in every sphere of work that problems at home can directly affect performance at work, and vice versa. But our aim as chaplains is more than just keeping people performing well! It's more to do with enabling people to become more wholly human, more wholly who they really are, and more wholly in tune with their spirit within.
When it became clear that the Channel Tunnel was going to be built, the Church leaders in Kent got together to work out their response. They decided to create an additional post for an Industrial Chaplain within Kent Industrial Mission, and the post was initially funded by the Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Churches.
I had three main spheres of work. The first focused on the cross-Channel transport industry, and I was Industrial Chaplain with Eurotunnel (UK), mostly at the U.K. Terminal. This involved not just getting to know the people who worked in the various construction companies, but also getting to understand what impact the Channel Tunnel, and all the development that's come with it, was having on south-east Kent. For some thoughts about how to think about the Channel Tunnel, click here.
From 1998 until 2010 I was Chairman of the Trustees of Migrant Helpline, now re-named Migrant Help, the Dover-based charity funded by the Home Office which assists asylum seekers entering the U.K. (legally or illegally) through the south-east Channel Ports by arranging induction and accommodation while their application is processed, and by helping them with their application, benefit, health and many other matters connected to their leaving their country of origin or their arriving in Britain. However, with the number of those seeking asylum having declined, the organisation has slimmed down and focuses more on those migrants who find themselves in distress, and also on victims of human trafficking.
For several years I was also the European Links officer for the Anglican Diocese of Canterbury. In 1994 I wrote a book on Church and Community twinning. In those days there was interest and resources among the churches for such projects, but more recent financial stringency has faced many churches with the more urgent need simply to survive. People's energies are now directed inwards, understandable but regrettable. It seems now that European partnerships will be less accessible to individual congregations, but an attractive proposition for local ecumenical organisations (e.g. Churches Together associations), district or regional initiatives.
I also took on the post of Ecumenical Officer for the Canterbury archdeaconry of the diocese. However, a new Communities & Partnership Framework has been launched in the diocese, which has subsumed much of the ecumenical and European work. It seems to me that there are many points of contact between European and ecumenical matters. You'll find some Ecumenical Notes here, and the website of Churches Together in Kent here.
The German Kirchentag is an event I look forward to with relish every two years. It's an amazing international Church Congress held in a German city every "odd" year, which attracts up to 150,000 people. I've been to fifteen of them, and until recently was responsible for some of the organisation in the UK. I have been chair of the British Committee for several years (hardly an arduous task!), and try to keep the English-language website up-to-date. You'll find it here.
A friend, a chaplain in the Mission to Seafarers, once pointed me towards Cruise Ship Chaplaincy as an interesting way of carrying out a particular sort of ministry while at the same time enjoying a couple of weeks in the sun. I took up the suggestion when I retired in 2003, and since then I have been chaplain on board all four of the Fred. Olsen Cruise Line ships, sailing either to the Canaries or the Caribbean at Christmas or Easter. However, in 2008 I was offered a chaplaincy on the World Cruise on the Black Watch, and I took all of a nano-second to accept. So I spent three and a half months - January 5th to April 21st 2008 - circling the globe, and enjoyed almost every moment. You can read about cruise ship chaplaincy here. The background picture to the home page was taken as the Black Watch was entering Milford Sound, one of New Zealand's majestic fjords, and you can see pictures from each of the four legs of the cruise here. My second three month cruise was to South America at the beginning of 2012, and you can read the blog here.
For me the most positive aspect is that I am the only chaplain on board (although on the South America cruise I was accompanied by a minister friend from Canada who shared the chaplaincy with me). I prepare ecumenical services of worship, largely based on material from the United Church of Canada. The United Church of Canada (Methodist + Congregational + Presbyterian, united since 1925) is unknown to most people on board, and the adaptable liturgical language and imagery are refreshingly different. It's a way of enabling people to experience the unfamiliar and also to sing some new hymns from that Church's excellent hymnbook. There is also an excellent resource for hymns in Hymnquest, a CD-based resource published by Stainer & Bell. Another very positive aspect is that the weather's usually better than back home!
I have been an Authorised Minister of the Methodist Church since my days in Dudley. and nowadays my Sunday preaching takes place in the South-East Kent Circuit, based around the two former Circuits of Folkestone and Ashford, part town and part country. This keeps me thinking and preparing worship services, which I find very rewarding and satisfying. It also allows me greater freedom to express worship without the constraints of published denominational liturgies. There are many ways in which we can express our faith in worship, and the thought-forms of even just a few decades ago no longer have the hold on our imaginations that they once did. Similarly, and this is a bit of a hobby-horse, the traditional language of liturgy takes little account of current theological insights. For instance, why is it that we still use the Nicene Creed as the authoritative statement of Christian faith, a formula whose language dates from the Council of Nicaea in the year 325. I think that to recite this creed every Sunday, as good Anglicans would do, is to reinforce a primitive and literal account of the Christian faith in terms that are simply dismissed by many believers. There are many faith statements around which are not based on doctrine but on experience and affirmation. I used three such statements in the cruise worship you'll find here.
Life is exciting and surprising. A year ago I moved in to share living with a friend, Lesley, whom I've known for over twenty years. Both living on our own, it seemed a Good Idea at the time, and has proved to be much more than that. So in October 2013 we were married in our local Methodist Church. Life is just a continual joy! One of the activities we share is as volunteers in a Kent charity called CROP - Citizens' Rights for Older People. This usually entails visiting a person or couple in their home, to help them claim the various benefits that are administered by the Department for Work and Pensions. It is very rewarding, and the work that CROP does is most warmly appreciated by our clients and also by local organisations.
Over the years, my beliefs have changed dramatically, as I have hinted above. My faith journey so far is written here if you're interested.