October 2011 Letter

In the middle of the peaceful rural landscape, an ominous cloud of dark smoke billowed from a burnt out building.  Everywhere we looked, cars were overturned, sticking out of ditches, some crushed by huge tree trunks or metal beams.  Ahead of us, the twisted carcase of a crashed plane stuck up from the ground, and on a nearby section of motorway, piled-up cars lay eerily silent.  Next to a shored-up high-rise, a huge mountain of unstable rubble concealed unknown numbers of casualties. 

 

But it wasn’t the aftermath of some dreadful natural disaster.  I was on a coach with thirty other Fire and Rescue Service Chaplains and the Minister for Fire and Resilience, being given a tour of  the amazing Incident Training Ground at the Fire and Rescue Service College at Moreton in Marsh.  Around us, groups of firefighters, paramedics and Search and Rescue teams from all over the world were learning the techniques that they would one day use to help others in need.  Even in such controlled conditions, the challenges for those learning were very real – real smoke and flames, real heat and real risks from unstable rubble as they dig and cut their way down to hidden ‘casualties’ whose computer generated screams, breathing and heartbeats are picked up by the search and rescue equipment to guide their rescuers.

 

It was the end of a two and a half day conference in which Fire and Rescue service chaplains from all over the United Kingdom had come together to learn more about how they could support those who risk so much to help others.  We had listened to a varied program of presentations - from dealing with traumatic stress, to a deeply felt personal account of the agonising choices felt by Chief Fire Officers who have to deliver massive financial cuts, to the more politically measured address by the Minister of State.  And we had learned that every Service and every chaplaincy is unique.

 

My own involvement comes because the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue HQ is in the parish of Clyst St George, and I was asked to take on the chaplaincy when Revd Geoffrey Rowe, the previous vicar, retired.  Some chaplains were, or are, firefighters themselves, and others are sponsored by churches in their area to be ‘workplace chaplains’ in a variety of different contexts – factories and supermarkets as well as the Fire and Rescue services. 

 

Chris’s account in his letter this month, of his ethical dilemma relating to his cleaning job, reminds us that our Christian lives are not separate from our working lives and it isn’t just those working in the midst of physical danger who need spiritual support – nor is it just those with a dog-collar or Chaplain’s badge whom God sends to provide it.  At every baptism I give the person baptised a candle to symbolise the light that God gives them to shine in the dark places of the world, and round any corner we may find ourselves in a situation where for someone, ours is the only light there is.

 

This month, I’d like to ask for your prayers for those of every faith and none who put their lives on the line for others, and for those who support them behind the scenes.  But I’d also like us to send up a prayer for all those whose work supports our lives – and if that leaves us all praying for each other, that is the way God intended it!

 

Rev’d. Karen Spray                             01392 877400                  church@revdkaren.org.uk

 


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