About 30 people attended a one-day Baptist chaplains’ retreat hosted by Hokowhitu Baptist Church on 7th November. 

Alan Jamieson was the keynote speaker. Alan is currently Senior Pastor of South West Baptist Church but spent some years in the New Zealand Air Force and was the Baptist advisor on the military chaplains’ advisory board for a time. 

Alan talked about five massive changes, or losses, in the world, and how this has moved us from a stable world to a ‘liquid’ one. These are the losses of meaning, belonging, hope, financial control and reality. To successfully navigate this fundamentally different world, he suggested that we need to find a big ‘we’—a trust in the collective (community)—and a ‘long now’, i.e. living in ways now that are positive for our long-term future.

Later in the day, Wyatt Butcher, a mental health chaplain, talked about the thinking and motivation of the increasing numbers of people who describe themselves as having no faith. He mentioned four major influences on this largely Western phenomenon: disenchantment, disillusionment, globalisation and humanism. However, even if churches may be declining, chaplaincy is growing, he said. Referring to Jesus’ comment about ‘the least of these’ (Matthew 25) and Abram’s call to ‘go out’ and God’s promise to bless all people through him (Genesis 12), Wyatt said chaplains go to people and bless those whom they serve. 

Interspersed in the retreat programme were short talks from Baptist chaplains working in a variety of settings: prison, mental health services, community and military. They described what a typical day might look for them. This ranged from literally rubbing shoulders while working alongside staff in a ship’s compact kitchen, to the more commonplace staff meetings and reports involved in a large not-for-profit organisation. 

There were several other types of chaplaincy represented at the retreat, including police, sports, hospital and tertiary. Regardless of the context, one chaplain said they are all like farmers, “Sowing seeds wherever we go.”

The event organiser, Paul Askin, plans another chaplains’ retreat for 2019 and is looking at other ways Baptist chaplains can connect with one another throughout the year.

The Baptist magazine hopes to feature more about the work of chaplains in the future, commencing in February 2019 with a look at a Navy chaplain’s life. If you have a chaplaincy story to share, get in touch.