Asda Chaplain... more than a job
Interviewed at Spring Harvest on TWUK exhibition stand.
You’re a Chaplain – is that correct?
I’m a Chaplain at Asda in Bodmin in North Cornwall
How did that come about?
Umm...it came about through people needing someone to talk to after some sudden deaths in the store. Some young members of staff died suddenly. They needed someone to unload on really.
How did you find out that they needed someone?
A member of staff whom I happened to know who lives in my village, mentioned it and I said I’ll come in if that’s alright with management and it became more formal later on.
Okay so are you ordained?
Yes I’m a priest in the church of England – I’m a vicar.
Excellent – so do you have a full time church as well?
Yes I’ve got a full time ministry - I have a church – I’m a governor of various schools and I’m a chaplain of our local hospital too. All the other things that the vicar does – I’m often shattered but I’m never bored!
How do you get round to talking to people when they’re in work as Asda? Aren't they busy stacking shelves and on the tills etc?
Okay – so what I do is I put together a rota so they know when I'm coming in and we can arrange times to meet. I come in on different days of the week and different times of the day so I’ll catch different people. If someone’s not busy on the till I’ll go and say hello. I also do my shopping in Asda so I’m always in there more than once a week but also if they want to talk we can go and have a cup of coffee and things like that.
What else do you do apart from listening and caring – I guess you’re a counsellor?
I often think that it helps that I’m not actually employed by the store because the staff can say whatever they like and it won’t go any further. I’m an outsider who isn’t going to take it any further at all.
Is it a multi-cultural, multi-faith workplace?
Bodmin isn’t very multi-cultural – there are some Polish and Portuguese so it is becoming more so because they’re Roman Catholic.
So apart from getting to know and meet some of those people what else have you done in Asda?
We’ve done some carol singing, we’ve dressed up in pink for breast cancer awareness, and I’ve gone in with a red nose on! Asda have helped us in our community by giving us a garden shed for our church hall and paving slabs as well. This is now used by our local drop-in group, so it’s very much a two-way thing. But what I do is completely voluntary in Asda – they don’t pay my wages.
And how are you received?
Very well actually – initially people were a little suspicious that I was going to try and convert them but that isn’t actually my style. When I'm in Asda I will talk about Jesus and talk about what my faith means to me, but it depends what people want. I’m there as a physical presence to actually help.
If there’s someone coming on our website reading this article, they’re a church leader – there’s an Asda down the road – what would you say to them?
I’d say – go and make an appointment with the general store manager – and offer your services. You might be very surprised at the reaction you get.
Is there anything else that you’d like to say?
I just love everything that I do – I’m so glad I’m in a job that’s more than a job – and I enjoy it so much.