Dear Friends and Colleagues,
“It was only multi-faith because I was there.” So said a UK colleague about their experience of a recent conference they’d attended.
It was a phrase that could be taken in several different ways, but as we look forward to our next conference in Melbourne (from Sunday 13 – Friday 18 October 2019), let’s hold that thought (whatever our faith tradition) for a moment…
One of the questions in last summer’s IACAC members’ questionnaire asked about your motivation (or demotivation) to attend (or not attend) a conference. The answers focused strongly on whether you would feel represented and engaged by 1) the content and 2) the ‘feel’ of the conference. “If I’m going to be the only (—-) there, what’s the point?”
If that reflects your answer (or your thoughts), then, ironically, you are not alone!
The IACAC Exec. Board is responsible, both for communicating to members through the newsletter and website, and any other means, and, not only for the content, but more importantly the culture (the feel) of our conferences.
So, as the current President of the Association I offer my apology to anyone who has felt excluded or marginalized (I hope, almost certainly, unintentionally) by the experience of meeting up with, or hearing from, other members of the Association.
It can be particularly difficult, if you find yourself the only (insert significant identifier here) at a gathering – whether that primary identifier is your faith tradition, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, language, culture, or age – it is always hard to be the only one.
But it is also why it is so important that you are here.
You will know this from your own experience of airport ministry. Because you are ‘here’, when someone else who sees themselves reflected in you (and it may not matter if you look, or sound, or are, exactly like them, it’s more important that they can see themselves reflected in you) – they will come again: they will stay, they will come back – and they may even bring others.
A key purpose of our meeting together (whether in our networks or as the global IACAC) is to encourage, strengthen and resource one another: we all must ensure that this continues to be the case for all – not just those like us.
And I want to ensure that we (all) continually seek to strengthen the ambition of the Association, expressed so strongly by the membership at every Annual Business Meeting (certainly since I joined in 2012) for the IACAC to grow by becoming ever more inclusive and reflective of the diversity of the workforce and passengers we serve.
As I write, I am thinking of various specific chaplaincy colleagues from my own British Isles and Ireland network, as well as from around the world, who demonstrate that inclusivity and diversity in reaching out far beyond the comfort zone of their own faith tradition or culture (for example, a Muslim chaplain I know who ministered to a Roman Catholic lady from the DRC by leading her in reciting the Lord’s Prayer.)
I recently had the pleasure and honour of praying for God’s blessing on a new route from Manchester to Mumbai. Jet Airways (India) asked me to bring together Sikh, Hindu and Muslim colleagues to pray our own words of blessing, and in doing so, we each connected with delighted members of our own communities among staff (and passengers as they queued) around us.
The Christian story of Jesus’ birth (December/January) brings together traditional Jewish religious belief and practice, shepherds from the fringes of respectable society, and eastern astrologers/mystics. The main characters become, effectively, rough-sleepers, refugees and displaced immigrants in a foreign land – and the whole story is set in the context of a complex series of journeys which begins in the characters’ home-town and takes them to foreign and unfamiliar places.
There is room for everyone in that story; and as we tell our own stories (and even more importantly, as we listen to and make space for other people’s stories) we each find ourselves represented in one-another’s stories, too.
October 2019 may seem a while away, but it’s never too early to start to seek funding for your place at our 52nd Annual Conference in Melbourne – the theme of which is DIVERSITY – Embracing Differences as a Gift.
And, if you have chaplaincy colleagues who are of a different faith tradition from you, whether or not they IACAC NEWSLETTER receive this newsletter, would you please encourage (and even assist) them to seek funding so that they can attend?
Have you held that thought…? “The IACAC conference was only multi-faith because I was there.”
The next conference will only be (anything) because you are there. Your presence at conference – not only makes a difference to you – not only makes a difference to the Association as a whole, but also makes a big difference to those of our colleagues around the world who see something of themselves in you: those for whom you are exactly the Person they need to see!
May God bless you through these Winter (in the northern hemisphere) and Summer (in the southern hemisphere) months, and the many festivals that take place at this time of year. May 2019 prove to be a year of peace and success for you, your colleagues, and those whom we serve.
May this be a Blessed and Holy Christmas, a restful holiday season and a wonderful New Year for each of you according to your tradition.
The Revd George Lane President, IACAC President
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