British Isles and Ireland Network BIIACN

The British Isles and Ireland Airport Chaplains Network are proposing to have a virtual (ZOOM) network meeting on Wednesday 19th May – further details and joining instructions will be sent nearer the time. Please note this is a Wednesday not the regular Tuesday slot. It is hoped to facilitate a discussion around rebuilding our airports and in particular Chaplaincy Teams and the presence of chaplains in the airport. International Airport Review is putting on a conference on 5th/6th May entitled “Rebuilding Airports” and this will be used that as a basis for discussions.

The Network was fully established in 1998, although the seeds of its role predate that, with occasional meetings of a few Airport Chaplains in the early 1990’s. As numbers of Chaplaincies grew in the UK and Ireland, so the need for an informal Network was realised.

The reasons for the Network’s existence were set down in a paper originally written in 2011 and revised in 2015 by the Revds Michael Banfield and Roy Monks.

In essence the Network

  • enables Chaplains from across the British Isles and Ireland to meet together on a regular basis
  • provides an opportunity for learning and sharing of good practice
  • fosters a team spirit as we focus on issues that affect all our airports
  • gives us a voice at a national level within aviation and the local Church and faith communities
  • supports new Chaplaincies
  • enables the work and support of IACAC to be cascaded to those unable to attend the IACAC annual conferences
  • a coordinator and secretary are elected from Network members, serving for two years. Neither can be re-elected for more than three consecutive terms

The Network now has over a hundred names in its directory representing 28 airports across the UK and Ireland. BIIACN holds two meetings a year, put on by a different Airport each time. In the three years predating COVID lockdowns we have been hosted by Belfast City, London Stansted, Southampton, London Gatwick, Liverpool John Lennon and London Heathrow Airports. However during 2020 and continuing into 2021 we have met and are meeting by Zoom.

It had become the norm for those who wish, to meet the evening before for a meal and some informal rest and recreation. The Network day then consists of some informal prayers, presentations and discussions arranged by the hosts culminating in the business meeting. Recent subjects covered have included Self-defence training; Safeguarding – keeping people and places safe; Interpreting and imagining the spiritual – Chaplaincy on the Wing, amongst many other fascinating talks and discussions. The business meeting focuses on news and views from across the Chaplaincies, giving the chance to say hello to new friends or goodbye to those moving on to pastures new.

Although the Christian influence in Chaplaincies in general and the Network in particular has been predominant, we are working hard to encourage attendance and participation from Chaplains from other faith communities. Following discussions in Belfast in 2016, we agreed to ensure that the prayer time is accessible to all faith groups. So a reading from the Holy Scriptures of the faith of the person leading, without comment or interpretation, followed by a time of silence. In this way, we hope that we will begin to widen our knowledge of all the faiths represented in BIIACN, without bias or prejudice.