President’s Letter | August/September 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It is with a mixture of sadness and enthusiasm that I write to you today. Sadness because day after day each one of us is learning about new dramas on airports and the global aviation industry. How many airlines and airport staff have been made redundant these past weeks or will be within the next few months? Specialists are talking about 10 to 25% of budget cut in aviation workforce globally. The tragedy of the pandemic of COVID-19 has become a global economic tragedy that particularly affects the aviation industry. On the whole, airport chaplaincies don’t seem to be too badly affected at least economically but we’ve had some bad news from a few colleagues on that regard: Brussels Airport have decided to stop the financing of both Catholic and Protestant chaplains which puts  our colleagues Michel Gailliard and Edwin Delen in a difficult situation although the airport is encouraging them to maintain their presence and ministry if they can. Such news is sadly to be expected in a few places although we’ve had opposite and encouraging news of airports maintaining their strong support for their chaplaincy.

Less expected was the news of the withdrawal of support from religious organizations. It was a shock to the chaplaincy and Melbourne Airport to hear that the Salvation Army was withdrawing  the position of Chaplain and coordinator of the chaplaincy at Melbourne airport (MEL). The shock was shared by the airport management which immediately reacted in a very constructive way and is dedicated at finding a solution to maintain the chaplaincy. And of course, each one of us who were in Melbourne last year for the conference and have experienced 1st hand Martyn’s and the entire chaplaincy’s involvement in organizing the conference and welcoming us, couldn’t understand such a decision.

I have personally expressed the solidarity of our Association with Martyn Scrimshaw who has been one of the most (if not the most) dedicated airport chaplains on the planet during the terrible tragedy we are all facing as he has been present at the airport every single day helping the few passengers and staff on the airport of what could very well be the region with the longest COVID-19 lockdown on the planet. His personal involvement has been an amazing support for those who needed it and has gained a tremendous gratitude from the airport management. Another piece of bad news earlier this year, came from Mats Linde in Gothenburg, Sweden (GOT) who told us in May that the parish decided to reduce his time as an airport chaplain (with no presence onsite). Although this decision was not related to the COVID-19 crisis and was postponed because of this crisis it remains a bad news for GOT chaplaincy.  Mats who has been a dedicated chaplain there for almost 20 years and has decided to resign from the parish and consequently the chaplaincy effective on 1st December. It was very sad to hear Mats give me those details and I assured him of the Association’s solidarity and our prayer.

But as I wrote I also have reasons to be enthusiastic. These past few months have been an incredible time to get closer to one another and never have I had so many contacts with colleagues from all over the world through Facebook, on the phone and on video (like many I am thankful for zoom, skype and the likes!). It has been amazing to be able to connect despite the distances (and time zones!) with quite a few of you and I wanted to share with you the joy to see how much chaplains from so many different places were so happy to connect with each other. Another reason for my enthusiasm is the program we are organizing for our International Online Conference on 20th October. This is a particularly relevant date as it is also the International Day of Airport Traffic Controllers.

The board has been actively organizing this very first IACAC online conference. We are working on recording several guest speakers. The main ones are Grace Davie, a British sociologist of religion well known for her works on religion and secularism in Europe and Kathy Malcom Hall a therapist from the US specialized in congregational development. Grace Davie will help us consider the role of faith groups and organizations such as chaplaincies in crisis situations such as the one we are going through. Kathy Malcom Hall will lead us in a reflection about grieving and how to deal with the many losses in our lives. We expect that both speakers will be nurturing our own reflections as we face the tremendous challenges of our time and seek to bring comfort and counsel to airport passengers and staff. We are also working on interviews with top CEOs and airport managers to tell us what the main challenges of the global aviation industry are for the next few years and how they envision the role and value of airport chaplaincy. We’ll also have the honor and pleasure to have Geoffrey Thomas, retired Chief Editor of the airline management journal Air Transport World and present Editor-in-Chief of a website he has been developing since 2012. He will lead us in a conversation on the topic of our Conference: Challenges of Chaplaincy in a Changing Aviation World.

You’ll find more details about this online Conference in this Newsletter but I would like to emphasize how much we would like it to be a special time for airport chaplains and friends of the IACAC from all over the world to come together in fellowship and learn how to face this unprecedented tragic time. Some of you are used to our annual conference and although we’ll dearly miss the possibility to meet face-to-face, share a drink and hug, I am sure you will find joy in fellowship and learning as we usually do. But many of you might not be used to our physical yearly encounter and I hope this will be a great way to get to know you and learn from you. I understand the chosen time is not ideal. The Board has studied several possibilities and this one seemed the best and I believe it will be worth some getting up very early in the morning for the Western part of the US and others staying late in the evening in Asia and Australia.

I am personally impatient to see as many of you as possible and sing with the psalmist (if you allow me this paraphrase) “How good it is for brothers and sisters to virtually live together in harmony for a couple of hours!” (Psalm 133).

Pierre de Mareuil

HOLY DAYS OF THE MONTH –  Sharing and Celebrating Our Traditions


3rd   – Sukkot starts. Jewish

9thv  – Sukkot ends.  Jewish

10th – Shmini Atzeret. Jewish

11th –  Simchat Torah. Jewish

17th –  Navaratri begins. Hindu

20th – Birth of Guru Granth. Sikh

24th –  Navaratri ends/Maha Navami. Hindu

25th –  Dusshera. Hindu

30th – Milad un Nabi. Islam

30th – Sharad Purnima. Hindu

31st – All Hallows Eve. Christian