‘Living as listeners, planted like sentinels upon the world’s frontier’

These words of Thomas Merton about vocation beautifully describe what two of SEI’s ordinands have been engaged in recently. First year diaconal candidate Enza Gibson from the Diocese of Brechin and second year Mixed Mode ordinand Ross Stirling-Young from the Diocese of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane were presented this week with certificates in recognition of their work as Chaplains with Work Place Chaplaincy Scotland. They describe that experience here, Enza first:

Being a Chaplain with Work Place Chaplaincy Scotland has been an amazingly rewarding experience. I am very grateful and privileged to have been part of the life of two very different communities.

One placement was in a workplace with Royal Mail. Getting to know the staff, being an independent and impartial listening ear, being approachable, accepting, and non-judgmental, opened up and built relationships of trust and mutual respect, where individuals came and shared burdens, anxieties and hopes.

Men and women, both posties and management, were coping with the stress and demands of the job and with various workloads and family issues. There were also difficulties with work-life balance, which, for many, was poor. Mental health support was also a key concern. Many were further burdened with the possibility of and then actual postal strike, which then further affected work and family life. The lovely staff were grateful for being able to chat openly about these issues in confidence, to be listened to, to look together at ways to address some of the issues and to be signposted to agencies/people who could help further with mental health, wellbeing and resilience support. For me, it was a privilege to be allowed to share their burdens, as well as their joys, to be given an insight into their personal lives and to help them find a way forward. My experience has been rich and rewarding.  I have been blessed and privileged to have people trust me enough to share their fears, joys, and home lives with me.  I have learnt so much about various people’s lives, their interactions with others, their strengths and weaknesses and our need for one another.

Ross writes:

After completing six modules online during lockdown with Work Place Chaplaincy Scotland, I officially started my role as Chaplain to Morrisons Supermarket employees in Glenrothes in March 2022. Over the past eight months, I have built relationships with employees, from senior management to staff on the shop floor and those behind the scenes. During each weekly visit, I walk the shopfloor visiting each of the many departments and chatting to staff about their work or personal life. I then spend time in the staff canteen, where individuals can come and speak with me in private. Due to the busy environment of a supermarket, I also meet staff outside of their work environment if this is something they request. I remember vividly my last one-to-one chaplaincy meeting in a local coffee shop, whereby by simply listening and offering an unbiased ear, the person could truly offload some deep trauma affecting their work life.

I feel blessed to be able to live out my sense of calling in this chaplaincy role at the same time as fulfilling my role as a full-time Mixed Mode student. It’s great that I can bridge the gap between my placement church and the secular society in a way that doesn’t force religion upon any individual. For me, it’s a very real way in which I can live out the Gospel message in what feels like a tangible way.

Photos courtesy of Enza Gibson and Ross Stirling-Young