Chaplain's 10 years service in Norfolk store
2011: A Norfolk supermarket chaplain is celebrating 10 years of giving pastoral support to customers and staff. Here Stephen Andrews explains about day-to-day life in his role as industrial chaplain.
Stephen Andrews was appointed as chaplain to the Great Yarmouth Asda store in June 2001.
He works with both customers and staff in the store for around four hours per week and his role involves meeting people and giving pastoral support.
The role is unique in that there are not many supermarket chains that offer their staff and customers access to a chaplaincy service.
Stephen said, "This is a real opportunity that allows me to use and find ways of sharing God’s love. This is certainly the case in offering pastoral care to the new member of staff who just needs to feel welcomed or the customer who is newly bereaved."
Stephen has noticed a recent increase in the number of people who want to talk about their finances. People are concerned about the impact that the spending cuts will have on their daily lives and about strained relationships as a result of not being able to manage finances.
Over the years Stephen has been able to offer listening support to parents who have sons and daughters in the armed forces and, depending on the area of posting, this can be an extremely anxious time.
During the ten years that Stephen has been the Asda chaplain he has assisted at and taken many funerals, been involved in several weddings and he very often gets invited to baptisms. He said, "I’m often invited to receptions and parties which is very nice because I love people and I like my food!"
At such events Stephen finds people ask him questions because they are in a relaxed atmosphere.
He said, "I’m always so pleased when people ask questions and I especially like theological questions. Usually there is a good and valid reason why people ask and that is where a listening ear comes in useful. Sometimes it can be about something they have found fascinating or because they are looking for a link which will help us both address a specific situation."
"There are times when I get caught out because being human I really don’t have all the answers to everything although it’s not very long before I’m on the phone to a colleague, consulting a book or on a laptop Googling a reliable source."
Stephen was delighted to receive a gift from the staff in appreciation of his ten years' service to the store.
"I have enjoyed the last ten years because it's been a real privilege and a joy to walk alongside people, wherever they just happen to be. As a chaplain I have been avoided by people who are not quite sure if I’m going to deliver a sermon on the shop floor but once they get to know me they soon discover that we really do have more in common than they first thought.
"As with all Christians, we are called to be servants so that in our ministry the love of God may always be made visible... I hope that’s the case as I visit people in Asda and I also hope that as a vehicle for God I’m helping to make a real difference."
Pictured above: Stephen was presented with a gift from Asda staff