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July 23, 2006

Being there ...

One of the many joys of being part of the ministry team of a place like the Abbey, is the opportunities that it provides to meet people. Yesterday afternoon I was the duty Chaplain. It was a strange sort of day, hot, humid and even a passing thunderstorm - it missed us but dumped a months rain on the other side of the valley - brought lots of people just looking for a place to sit, a place to be out of the soft rain that began around 2 pm and perhaps even to explore a building they had not seen before. We all have different styles for carrying out this duty, my own is to be seen, to be there if anyone wants to talk and to share the building and its special feeling with anyone who looks as if they want to do so.

Naturally we also have a special sequence for prayer and to make people welcome as well, and it is always interesting to see how people respond to this. Yesterday we had the majority seating themselves and taking time out to listen to the prayer intentions and to join in the prayers. Equally interesting are those who seem to think that you are interupting their exploration of a museum and some will actually raise their voices in conversation while you pray. It doesn't bother me at all, since we must all respond in the end to God as we see the need - and some simply don't like to admit that they need to pray. I frequently feel sorry for these folk as their lives must be very limited if they have no hope of anything beyond this. On the other hand it is really humbling to have people from the other end of the spectrum, those who do need to pray and who visit to find more than a historic building, seek you out to thank you for leading the prayers or for saying what they could not find the words to say.

There are those as well who find the fact that we let dogs (on leads) and sometimes strangely dressed people in and wander at will difficult. But the whole purpose of the building is to provide everyone - congregation and visitors - with the opportunity to encounter God. That is why we try to have Chaplains on duty throughout the summer and over the major festivals. It isn't always easy to do this, and sometimes one does encounter those who are either hostile or rude, but as we remind ourselves, the Apostles suffered far worse.

Being a Chaplain is both a privilege and a service. We are there for those seeking, for those who do not know they seek, and above all, we are there to serve God. A privilege indeed.

Posted by The Gray Monk at July 23, 2006 01:44 PM

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