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Working Well...

Wednesday 10th April, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

by Reverend Rachel Shock | tags: , , , ,

Just what does a workplace chaplain do? According to the Revd Rachel Shock it is a frequently asked question, which is sometimes difficult to answer. C Magazine talked to her about what is involved ...

The Workplace Chaplaincy is based within the Parish of All Saints, St Mary & St Peter in Nottingham and has been offering support for over 25 years to businesses. “I work with a marvellous team of volunteer ecumenical lay chaplains who give up their time to visit Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, BHS, John Lewis & Victoria Centre support staff. This leaves me to concentrate on Freeth Cartwright, Capital One, the Courts and others. We also have a team of specialists who have agreed to help us if we need to refer people for specific help like bereavement counselling or parenting issues,” said Rachel.

“Recently someone came to see me whose boss had been killed on his way home from work. He wasn’t a Christian and he didn’t know why he wanted to see me but needed to share the information with someone other than the other people in their office. He came to see me quite nervously and left some time later saying nothing had changed but that he felt calmer and he now had a sense that his boss was at peace. The conversation had helped him to clarify what had happened and at his invitation we talked about the Christian faith and how we understand what happens to people when they die.

“I have a regular pattern of visiting businesses in the city centre. It’s impossible to get round the whole firm every time and with different working patterns, there are always some people I never see. However they know I’m there – in most places as I arrive an email is sent round to advise that I am in the building. This email includes my mobile phone number, which people can then use to text or ring asking me to call by their desk or meet away from their desk! They also have my email address and we have put a lot of effort into raising the profile of the chaplaincy within these firms. People may not need me on the day I visit but they know how to get hold of me straight away. It also allows them to control the method of communicating.”

The team have re-established iChaplaincy (a chaplain online) for the firms which support the chaplaincy and actively promote their services. “People still find it useful to be able to contact a chaplain by email confidentially and anonymously – most think their questions are stupid – if you have no experience of church, there are all sorts of misgivings, misunderstandings and assumed practice,” said Rachel.

“People have a sense of spirituality but don’t know how to express this or how to find out more. Relationship issues are of course common, sickness and bereavement feature highly, together with debt and stress usually induced because the firm they work for has had to make a number of people redundant and they now find themselves doing the work of two, and I am often asked how I would deal with a dispute which is going on in the workplace.”

Solicitors, Browne Jacobson is one of the firms visited by Rachel and Business Development Manager, Jackie Carter has first-hand experience of the love and care available. “Rachel has been our chaplain for the last 18 months. I contacted her as my dad had been poorly virtually from the day he retired 15 years before, but by that stage he was really ill and I think the family all knew it would be our last Christmas with him.

“I was finding it increasingly difficult to deal with how I was feeling and experiencing feelings of guilt at not being able to spend much time with dad. Rachel came to see me at the office and she just let me talk about all the things I couldn't tell the family about how scared I was and how hard I was finding it all. She kept in touch with me throughout Christmas and when, in March 2012 he lost his battle she was there to provide a warm and caring word. And we still have a chat if I'm in the office when she visits.

“While all employers will have pension funds and some will have other benefits like private medical cover and life insurance, not many will actually have a workplace chaplain to provide emotional support when it is most needed. I'd encourage any employer who wants to provide practical support to consider a workplace chaplain - and, you don't have to be deeply religious to ask for that chaplain's help. Rachel never asked me about my faith, she simply provided a shoulder to cry on and some wise words when I really needed them, and I can't thank her, or Browne Jacobson, enough for that.”

Nottingham City Transport has a history of chaplaincy within the company... “We have a long heritage dating back to the mid- 19th century and our association with the diocese goes back to at least the turn of the 20th century,” explained Mark J Fowles, Managing Director. “Since 1986 we have had an ‘official’ Chaplain with only a short break following the retirement of the Revd David Tudor. The recent appointment of the Revd Rachel Shock will continue and maintain that long relationship. I have often been asked by other business leaders what it is that having such a position brings to our company and the answer in truth, is that I don’t know exactly, but what I do know is that without it we are something less than we are with it.

“Over the years many of our employees of all denominations have consulted with our chaplain to discuss a whole range of topics from tram contracts through football and discussions of Christian beliefs to counselling during times of stress or bereavement. I am confident that Rachel will bring her own inimitable style to the company. Welcome Rachel, you complete us."

Capital One has supported and enjoyed working with the Workplace Chaplaincy service for many years. Community Relations Manager, Stuart Mather, said: This service is for employees of all faiths. If there is something on people’s minds— either work-related or in their personal life they can meet Rachel during one of her fortnightly visits to Trent House. She also makes herself available outside these visits by providing alternative ways of meeting and contacting her. Rachel has played an instrumental role in supporting our employees recently when, devastatingly, two of our employees passed away. Rachel was there to talk to anyone who required it and spoke beautifully at the memorial services.”

Rachel says that funding is becoming a priority issue this year. “We receive a third of our funding from the parish, a third from the businesses and currently a third from the Diocese. This third will cease from December 2014 so we are trying to see how we will find the funding to continue this valuable work.

In the meantime, I walk and talk getting to know people, a friendly face in the office always conscious to keep my eyes away from computer screens and other confidential material but with a real sense that this is where God wants me to be – joining with Him in the presence of the Spirit to bring light to the world of work.”

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