A day in the life of … a retail chaplain
I now expect surprises during my visits to city centre retail staff on Monday mornings. Since attending the CIGB Training Course in autumn 2011 and starting retail chaplaincy in April 2012, I have felt really blessed by opportunities to chat to people of all ages whom I may not otherwise have met.
Challenging and unexpected questions have set the grey matter of this senior citizen working furiously, to find an appropriate and sensitive way of answering, not to forget a quick prayer for the right words.
I have learned so much from my visits, especially how welcoming and responsive most people have been. There are sadder moments, such as discovering that yet another retail outlet has closed, often at short notice. Those I had chatted to and built a relationship with have disappeared, and could now be unemployed.
As outlets re-open, or new staff are taken on in established shops, there are new people to get to know. Most react positively, often with amazement, when I say I am there to offer support if and when they need it, as outlined in our be.friend leaflet.
A huge variety of topics have been discussed over two years, from guinea pigs to driving lessons, the voluntary work people do, family concerns and many more. The uncertainties of retail work and several instances of shop-lifting have also been raised.
I have not visited in my own strength. Prayer has been a vital element, and much support from our be.friend team, CIGB staff, my family and church fellowship.
It is a privilege, and so humbling, to be able to offer to pray at home for those with problems. It is even more touching when someone wants you to pray for them but says, ‘I am not a believer’, which convinces me that there is a great need for Christians to be out in the community, planting seeds.