Chairman’s Report (abbreviated) –
Chaplaincy in a field hospital after battle.
Ray Anglesea reports as our synod representative from the NIM 2018 AGM
Northumbrian Industrial Mission (NIM) oversees the role and work of all chaplains in the North East Region; it is an ecumenical organisation and chaplains come from a range of professional backgrounds. A Management Committee, Executive Group and Team Leader oversee the work of the chaplains. Although our motivation comes from our Christian beliefs and values, our role in the workplace is not that of evangelism. Chaplains are available to everyone – of all faiths and of none. However the work of this ministry helps to inform Christian understanding and action about the effects of economic activity on individuals, and on communities. One of the key objectives of NIM is “to interpret the Christian gospel in language that is meaningful to everyday situations, especially to those who are apart from the worshipping life of the church, indicating a Christian understanding of the purpose for which society exists”
Paul Southgate, NIM Chairman, is this year’s address said it’s no secret that today our churches are less full than they were yesterday – and we’ve been saying this every day for decades! It’s also true that, throughout the world, more Christians are being persecuted today than at any time in history. So, being a follower of Christ today means standing out, being different from the majority, unconventional, courageous. It’s not easy. Pope Francis has proposed a striking image of the Church: “I see the church as a field hospital after battle.” The thing the church needs most today, he says, is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity.
This brings home to me what a powerful image “a field hospital after battle” is, and it also helps me to understand the nature and work of our NIM chaplains which is encouragement and compassion, comfort and care. Francis’s battlefield image is not a comfortable one: it speaks of terror and trauma, suffering and sickness, death and wrecked lives, and wondering where God is in all this. To make a difference, to uncover God’s promise of “I will be with you” makes “nearness and proximity” the crucial strategy. That means we don’t wait for the wounded to make their way to us; we go out to bring them in to safety. If the church is a field hospital after battle, we need to find where our battle is. For us at NIM Paul suggest, the battle is the economy.
First, people at work can be bruised and wounded, trampled and vulnerable, in many ways. We can think of loss and bereavement, addiction, depression and other mental health issues, work-life imbalance, relationship problems, loneliness, money worries, bullying. NIM chaplains are on hand to provide support, care and prayer for those in need. Second, the battle over Brexit and what sort of nation/Europe do we want? It seems to me that in all the talk of Brexit we lose sight of our national ideals, our national compass and the opportunity afforded to us by Brexit to debate the kind of country we want. Can chaplains help build bridges over a growing and cataclysmic rift in the national spirit highlighted as a result of the referendum? Third, the battle of inequality: can we in our economy not devise a social and economic strategy which promotes equality, an environment in which the workforce and chaplains are comfortable in working? Finally, ‘Transition’ is the big buzzword this year, and how we manage transition, or change, is a most sought-after skill. It is a skill which needs to be backed up by vision, integrity, tact, leadership, competence, hard work and hope (a verb with its sleeves rolled up, as Matthew Fox says). We are all in a state of transition, a journey, an evolution. Well, NIM is no different,
As I reported last year – in order to be better able to serve people in the workplace, our chaplains and our sponsors – the trustees have decided that NIM is to become NIM Ltd, a registered charity and company limited by guarantee. We take consultation and feedback very seriously at NIM and are glad of our stakeholders’ encouragement and support for this process. The transition should happen in the next few months.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to Fiona, NIM Team Leader, Secretary Terri, vice-Chair Kate and the management committee for oiling the wheels of this process during the year. Thanks to Mark for looking after our finances. He will be among those helping us this year to strengthen our finances so that we can continue our progression to a healthy sustainability with the support of funders. Thanks to them for their support and generosity.
This report does that and I commend it to you. We welcome the future among us as an honoured guest.
Paul Southgate: Chair
9th May 2018