Saturday, May 30, 2009

Making Connections-Fire and Rescue Service Chaplaincy

by the Rev’d Simon Wilson,
Chaplain to Norfolk Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Service
Social and Community Concerns Co-ordinator, Diocese of Norwich

One of the advantages of having a dual role (in my case it is as Diocesan Social and Community Concerns Co-ordinator as well as chaplain to police and fire and rescue services) is that it forces us to make connections between our chaplaincy work and the Church’s wider mission and ministry. In recent months, I have had the privilege of being involved in three conferences which have encouraged me to nurture, develop and broaden these connections and networks and reminded me of the opportunities that arise when stories shared and real partnerships forged.

Firstly, I co-led a CME weekend encouraging curates to reflect on the place of the church and priest in wider community in ministry beyond the Church door. One request was that the fire & rescue service chaplaincy team provide some resources to equip ministry to fire stations and fire-fighters in their parish.

Secondly was our annual multi-disciplinary inter-faith chaplaincy conference. An opportunity to share the pleasures and pains of chaplaincy, to counter the feelings of isolation, to make sense of how chaplaincy works in a multi-faith context and find ways of working together in training, major incident working etc. Next year, we shall tackle the challenge of secularism and the notion of institutional spirituality.

Thirdly, was participation in a regional conference exploring voluntary and public sector/faith community partnerships. It was great to hear how valued chaplaincy programmes and faith participation were. Regional co-operation is important; in the East of England, we are exploring how to develop and co-ordinate chaplaincy to the ambulance service and will see if any lessons for fire and rescue service chaplains emerge.

Emergency incidents do not respect county or diocesan boundaries so collaboration is a must.

This article was first published in "Burning Issues" (Vol 1 no 3 May 2009)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

I am saddened and frustrated that Dr McKee has written a factually inaccurate and politically and theologically incoherent article. We are in an election period and it is a shame that the author has chosen to air these opinions in public rather than be involved in the ongoing and relevant debate inside and outside the Liberal Democrats about the place of religious faith in the public sphere. It should be pointed out that, the recent party conference in Harrogate saw those calling for the closure of faith schools defeated. Instead, the party voted to improve faith schools by making them more inclusive and open working with groups such as Accord a coalition of progressive religious minded people rather than militant secularists.

Dr Mckee may see Evan Harris as some sort of "political anti-Christ" yet many Roman Catholic commentators and leaders have applauded his recent private members bill to overturn the Act of Settlement which since 1701 has discriminated against Catholics.

The Liberal Democrat Christian Forum enjoys the support of many leading Liberal Democrat MPs, peers, councillors and members and has been involved in debates with the humanists and secularists minority within the party striving to increase religious literacy and affirm the valuable role played by people of religious faith in party and community. Surely,constructive debate should come before public diatribe and misinformation. Political and theological credibility is hard to come by and easy to lose. This article may prove very unhelpful to all Liberal Democrats, Christian or secularist alike.