York Community Chaplaincy

Monday, 17 October, 2011

York Community Chaplaincy (YCC) operates in the York Diocese as a Bishop's Mission Order. Leader Chris Cullwick details how its work has grown.

Building on the development of chaplaincy in various sectors across the city and the success of recent projects such as Street Angels, the Community Chaplaincy seeks new opportunities for chaplaincy service and trains and supports volunteers into a variety of chaplaincy roles.

YCC officially started in June 2010 as a three year project though I have been personally involved in chaplaincy here under the title of York Workplace Chaplaincy for several years before that. A previous Bishop of Selby, Humphrey Taylor, had originally set up workplace chaplaincy as an independent and ecumenical charity, representing all the denominations in the city and its range of chaplaincy services.

York Community Chaplaincy - treeAmong the many organisations and businesses using these services were the Chamber of Commerce and York City Football Club. That model worked pretty well until about five years ago because the partners benefiting from the chaplaincy were contributing to the charity so there wasn't too much of a worry about fundraising. Those partners included City of York Council, Nestle (which contributed £34,000 pa), Terrys and Norwich Union which provided us with an office space. However, over the course of time and with changes in management, funding support diminished.

Two of us had been employed full-time but then my colleague was made redundant. It was time to think again because the workplace chaplaincy provision under the old arrangements ended in January last year. The Diocese was keen to address the need and opportunity and, on considering various options, saw a Bishop's Mission Order as the best way to move things on. The BMO, from June 2010 for three years, was a new initiative to not only support existing chaplaincies in the city but also to develop new opportunities with new resources, in particular by identifying suitable volunteers.

York Community Chaplaincy - castleI now help to recruit, train and support a growing number of those volunteers into chaplaincy positions. Under the umbrella of York Community Chaplaincy we now have a team of about 10 volunteers doing a variety of things. I'm also employed part-time by York St John. I have worked alongside the University's Theology and Ministry Department and very much hope to develop the chaplaincy strand as training for general use.

Looking at general trends, we can see that more and more vacancies for chaplaincy welcome applications not only from ordained ministers but also from suitably qualified lay people. We are providing opportunity for those who have not come through the route of ordination.

It's easy with pioneer ministry and fresh expressions to overlook what the church has been doing for hundreds of years in the form of chaplaincy. The fact is that chaplaincy has become a very, very flexible term. As far as I'm concerned, it's all about being where people are with a focus on service and I think that's why many are getting excited about it.

York Community Chaplaincy - towerI have organised a number of days to help people explore chaplaincy, one chap who came is now heading up the retail chaplaincy in York which regularly visits over 100 city centre businesses.

The BMO is very helpful because it gives YCC a sense of support and respectability from the diocese in taking this kind of initiative across parish boundaries and drawing in volunteers from different kinds of churches. We hope it will enable YCC to continue its life beyond my present appointment and direct involvement.

Others recognise the BMO as a cross city initiative which doesn't have to tiptoe around parish boundaries. We are now at a pretty critical stage and quite a lot needs to happen because chaplaincy is a huge opportunity and a tremendous way to harness a lot of volunteer engagement with our churches and community; going out to meet people where they are.