Dear Friends and Colleagues,
In the past few weeks and in the weeks to come many of us have felt the need to connect and share our stories through the COVID-19 crisis and our hopes and challenges for the coming months and years. As have so many people around the world, we have discovered the benefit of online video meetings and Zoom has been a great tool for that.
On 15th June 40 chaplains mainly from Europe but also from the US, Australia and Kenya shared in a 2 hours online meeting. In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic and crisis which dramatically affects the aviation industry and the airports in which we serve, the aims of this meeting organized by airport chaplains in Europe was to support each other, share about our hopes and challenges as well as evaluate the need for closer networks in particular for chaplains who don’t meet regularly.
A good amount of time was dedicated in small group discussions in which many questions and sometimes concerns were raised on resuming chaplaincy and rearticulating its work and value to the airport. A few of the chaplains attending had been able to go to the airport and do some chaplaincy work but most of us have had to stay at home either for legal reasons regarding our employment status or simply to protect ourselves as well as not becoming super spreaders of the virus. The long absence of many raises the question on when and how to resume our work as chaplains. When will our prayer rooms reopen? Will we be able to organize worship or will it be open for private prayers only? Some concerns were shared on how much of the airport network relationships we had patiently built will survive as well.
Having been considered as “non-essential activity” several expressed the fear that the value of the chaplaincy to the airport community might be damaged and anticipate having to rearticulate it or even, as one participant put it “we have to re-gain “our” space at our airports”. One idea shared on that matter was to gather testimonies from various airports around the world about our value as seen, for example by airport and/or airline management. Another lead to help us face the situation and redefine our presence and work was to see what lessons could be learned from previous crises such as 9/11 and show how the role of chaplains helped the airports communities and passengers.
Beyond reorganizing our chaplaincies several questions were asked and ideas shared about how this crisis will change our ways of serving at our airports. The economic disaster that is affecting airports and the entire aviation industry will not only have an impact on the economy and organization of our chaplaincies but will certainly shape our ministries as we will certainly have to respond to more personal challenges amongst airport and airline staff. This is felt by several of us as a major challenge for our work in coming years. On the other hand several mentioned that this crisis has been an opportunity to develop some relationships and others believe that many will be more open to deeper and more spiritual conversations and invite all of us to keep our ears and eyes open and to be reaching to those in need on our airports.
Another zoom meeting was organized more recently in the US and I was privileged to take part with about 12 US chaplains. Our longtime member, chaplain in Dallas DFW Airport Bishop DD Hayes, initiated the meeting and I would like to share with you his opening remarks. After underlining the necessity for us to compline in applying the safety and sanity rules for our places of worship as well as in our contacts and relationships DD went on
“Also in the midst of the covid-19, we as chaplains are faced with the uprising of social injustice, racial and hatred and bigotry and unjust treatment of our black & brown brothers. We will and shall be called upon to assist the world in sharing the peace and love of harmony of our faith. As chaplains we are trained to be open to the voice of God to offer theology; God’s idea of love; sociology; man’s love for one another. Without theology we won’t be able to have social justice. As chaplains and spiritual men and women, we will have to speak up and change the narrative.”
Chaplains in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have also had several zoom meetings. Within the next few weeks or months. others are planning such online meetings – in the UK and Ireland, in Australia, in Africa and maybe other places around the world. These meetings are blessing to all of us and provide great opportunities to meet, although only virtually, to share, for fellowship and learn from each other. They underline the need to connect with each other and not stay isolated.
Several of the online meeting are scheduled are:
- One for the British Isles and Ireland Network on 28th July
- A follow-up of the European meeting on 24th August (plus a physical one day meeting in Brussels on 3rd December).
- One for Australian chaplains planned for October
- One for chaplains In Africa (no dates yet)
If you’re organizing something in your regional or faith network do not hesitate to let us know and, maybe you could invite others to join you.
As we mentioned in previous newsletters we are also organizing online global IACAC Conference on 20th October. More details will come later but please save the date for this unique opportunity to meet and share with colleagues from all over the world
To conclude this letter let me share with you that the more I think about the conversations with colleagues from all over the world, the more I am convinced of three things:
- Airport chaplains will be extremely necessary in the uncertain future of airports and the aviation industry. For some of us it will be a challenge to maintain and sustain our presence at the airport and have our chaplaincies fully functional.
- This crisis will reshape our mission and role within the airport communities we serve and the global aviation industry. Helping passengers and staff to deal with the multiple traumas of this crisis will certainly be the heart of our mission for quite some time from now on.
- Some of us might have some ideas on how theywill prepare and face this challenge. Others might still be quite unsure on how they will adapt to the “new normal” (which will be anything but normal!). Some of us might even feel stressed and anguished by the coming changes. All of this is, I believe, is quite normal and sane, and to overcome the instability of this time I truly believe that our association is a great tool. It will accomplish its purpose if it is a place where we can support each other, learn from one another and build together a shared understanding of civil aviation chaplaincy.
I hope and pray that the Creator of all things and the One who called us to serve in our airports will renew our desire to serve him and his creation and will guide and equip us through this challenging time. We simply need to keep our eyes, ears and heart open to God’s presence and action in our world as well as to the need and desire of those we are led to encounter and serve.
In the New Testament there is a verse that has always encouraged me which I was sharing a few days ago with a security agent who was struggling with his faith: “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears” (Letter from Paul to the Philippians 1:3-6). The last few words about the return of Christ might not feel really relevant to some of you but I believe the spiritual meaning of the Apostle’s insurance about God’s acting presence and guidance in our live and in our world is something we can share regardless of our faith traditions and different spiritual and theological sensibilities.
Yours always and truly,
Pierre de Mareuil
HOLY DAYS OF THE MONTH
Sharing and Celebrating Our Traditions
5th Asala-Dharma Day. Buddhist
5th Guru Purnima. Hindu
25th Nag Panchami. Hindu
25th St James the Great Day
30th Tish’a B’av. Jewish
31 Varalakshmi. Hindu
31st Eid-al-Adha. Islam
1st Lammas, Christian
3rd Raksha Bandhan, Hindu
10th –Waqf al Arafa-Hajj, Islam
11th Krishna Janmashtami, Hindu
15th The Assumption of Mary, Christian
15th Obon, Buddhist
20th Hijra-Islamic New Year
22nd Ganesh Chaturthi, Hindu
30th Days of Ashura/Muharren, Islam
31st Onam, Hindu