Sussex Police Chaplain talk Horsham Humanists 4th November 2013

Rev Terry, Rector of the Parish of Aldrington, started by telling us a little of his journey to becoming a Rector and Chaplain from an early life with musical ambition and having no calling to the church, swapping to theology studies only because he chose to cease law training.  He has always felt a strong need to stand up for others rather than himself, and described how during a church service “something got up off the prayer book and hit me”.  This prompted his second and successful approach to ordination, and he has now been a parish priest for 38 years, choosing a community oriented role that he feels allows him to make lives better by “meeting people where they are, not where I think they should be”.  For 22 years Rev Terry has been a chaplain with Sussex Police, and acknowledges that all the chaplains at present are Christian.    

In both roles, Rev Terry feels that the main approach is that of reasoning and logic, and at times this can be challenging.  In answer to questions he equated this with the variety of groups that Jesus engaged with, more often ‘sinners’ than followers.  The Rev had interesting observations about organised religion, explaining that when he first entered the church “I was shocked to discover I was dealing with people who were narrow and humourless, the antipathy of everything that I had read in the scriptures”.    He reminded us that Jesus did not found a church as this came later, and explained that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus would “be back very very soon”. 

Our chat with Rev Terry was a gentle and agreeable one. He explained that his work is informed by his experiences of life and of other people, by reading and listening and doing, and through this exploring what life is about.  No-one could disagree with this, or with the good moral values of caring for others in our communities and helping those who we can.  The difference showed in the Rev stating his belief that God is present in everything, and the God he believes in is a God of love who will love him in spite of everything.

Questions then arose about his work in chaplaincy – with results that again none present could challenge.  If someone approaches with a problem he treats this as a human problem even if it is presented in a theological fashion.  No precise job specification exists for the role, but he has signed the Sussex Police Statement of Values and relates his chaplaincy work to these values.  (for info, excerpt from website:  “We, the officers, staff and volunteers of Sussex Police are committed to public service, first and foremost.  We will act with compassion, personal responsibility and courage to do the right thing for the public we serve.  Our commitment to justice means we will always treat people fairly and according to their needs.  We will be innovative and keep looking for ways to improve our service.”)

Would the chaplaincy benefit from an Interfaith member?  Answer: a straightforward “yes”.

Are there many officers with a non-Abrahamic religion?  Answer: not many because Sussex is just not made up like that.  However there are a large number of LGBT staff and officers, which can be a challenge to the chaplaincy.

Is the police service disproportionately religious?  Answer: it reflects the community that it serves.

Rev Terry then returned to discussing his faith – his view is that there are things this side of eternity you are not going to understand, and if you are honest about what you don’t know it can strengthen your faith. 

The general chat could have gone on all night but had to draw to a close.  Overall it was an interesting and enjoyable but not very challenging night; kind and supportive approaches were discussed and again there was much to be found in common with our speaker.
 

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