When some 600 bishops and their spouses fly into the UK this summer they will receive a warm welcome from the moment they land, thanks to a team of Anglican airport chaplains who will be there to greet them.
Airport chaplains, Jean Hurlston and Bill Raines both based at Manchester Airport will be among those lining up a special welcome for their international Anglican visitors this July.
Jean Hurlston has been an airport chaplain for five years. Although she hardly ever flies or goes on holiday she moved into airport chaplaincies because she loves being with people.
“It’s like having a congregation the size of a small city,” she said in a recent video. “People often ask me about the job – they wonder what we do. In fact we do a lot of wandering around – strategic wandering … We look out for people who are vulnerable, there are a lot of people who have missed planes and are distressed and there are people who have not been able to get on a plane for one reason or another and need some pastoral support.”
Both chaplains see themselves as mainly there for the thousands of staff who work at the airport, but they do help passengers as well.
Bill Raines said, “When we meet passengers it’s usually because they’re a bad way, they may have lost their money, missed a flight, been mugged, or there has been a death on board.”
“We can be useful at oiling the wheels… to help move things along, without it being official airport action.”
This summer Bill said they will be setting up spaces in airports to offer a warm welcome to bishops and spouses arriving for the Lambeth Conference.
“I am hopeful that most of Anglican bishops will be able to navigate by themselves – our role is to provide a central meeting point,” Bill said. “We want to establish a space where bishops arriving can have somewhere to relax, have hot drinks and sandwiches before they go on their way.”
Bill said, “As Anglican conferences go this is a big deal. Lambeth conferences don’t happen that often! This is a point of real growth as people don’t have that much contact with each other and may only read press statements that they have issued to each other, or whatever it might be. Suddenly, they have the chance to form meaningful relationships.
So much of what bishops do is about personal relationships and so much theology is actually bound up in personal relationships, so that only good can come out of Lambeth conferences.”