New Lead Anglican Chaplain for Heathrow Airport in partnership with the Diocese of London
The Revd Bruce Rickards was licensed as the Lead Anglican Chaplain to Heathrow Airport by the Archdeacon of Northolt The Venerable Catherine Pickford on Friday 10 September. In an uplifting service, conducted outside in the Airport chapel garden, there was the formality of the historic Licence and canonical vows interspersed with music provided by the band of the Salvation Army and rousing hymns sung with great enthusiasm. The Archdeacon preached and outlined the vital ministry that Chaplains undertake and how they meet people at their point of need.
As part of the service, members of the airport community welcomed Bruce. The Interim Head of Heathrow Chaplaincy Steve Buckeridge, the local Area Dean of Hillingdon the Revd Richard Young. It was a particular privilege to have Pierre de Mareuil, the current chair of IACC, present and welcome Bruce to the worldwide community of airport chaplains.
After the service, Bruce was able to meet many members of the congregation over delicious international cuisine, representing the cultural diversity of Heathrow airport chaplains, and celebratory cake.
Here’s the sermon of Bruce’s licensing:
‘Evan as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’
Words of Jesus
It is a delight to be here today to licence Bruce as your new Anglican chaplain here at Heathrow. I know Bruce well, because he has served in my team as financial advisor for the year that I have been Archdeacon of Northolt and I am delighted to commend him to you. He is a person of prayer, of faithfulness and of a deep sense of God’s love for the world. I will always remember what one of the chaplains showing Bruce round the airport at his interview said. He said ‘I felt I had spent half an hour with a chaplain’. Even in that highly pressured moment of the day of the interview, Bruce had listened, he had created space for another to talk, because it is part of who Bruce is, a natural listener, a natural nurturer of others.
In our gospel reading that Richard read to us, we hear the story of two brothers, James and John and they have a request for Jesus. They ask to sit with him, one on his right and one on his left in his glory. In other words, they are asking for the places of honour. Understandably the other disciples are furious with them, who do these two think they are, seeking positions of power over the other disciples. But Jesus is gentle with James and John. He knows that the mistake they are making is a very common one, perhaps the most common of all human mistakes. They think that the aim of life is to seek glory. And he explains to them, and to the other disciples
whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus sets an example to them and to the others of how to lead. He leads through sacrificing himself for those who follow him. In one of his final moments before his trial and crucifixion, when he washes his disciples feet, he demonstrates to them how to lead, by serving, by giving himself for others.
Chaplaincy is an excellent example of servant leadership. I have never been an airport chaplain, but I was a volunteer police chaplain for 4 years and I have also done chaplaincy placements in a prison and on a naval base. They were very different, but one thing they all had in common was what chaplains often laughingly call ‘loitering with intent’. That sense of being available, undefended and without an agenda for the service of others. I remember that as a vicar, my diary would often be full of stuff from morning until night, but the afternoon a week I put aside for the police chaplaincy would be absolutely empty. I would have no idea what would happen. It would depend where I was needed and I would respond in the moment.
Its not an easy gig. In an environment where they are often misunderstood, Chaplains have to have a sure sense of their own calling before God. Being available for others is not always easy. Sometimes you are wandering around being available and no one wants you. Other times everyone wants you at once and it is hard to prioritise one need over another. Sometimes people want types of help that you are not able to give them and that is always hard. But chaplaincy is also, in many ways, the most Christlike of all ministries. We learn from the gospels that Jesus spent a lot of his ministry amongst people, without any stated agenda, getting to know them, helping them, meeting them where they were. That is what chaplains do, they walk alongside.
Bruce joins the chaplaincy team at a crucial time in the life of Heathrow. As passengers begin to return, as working lives change, we do not yet know what the future will be, what changes will be temporary and which permanent. But we do know that the chaplaincy team will always be needed, supporting people of all faiths and none, staff and passengers, in the life of this wonderful place.
I do not want to let this opportunity pass without saying thank you to the chaplaincy team, and especially to Steve who has taken the role of acting lead chaplain, over this challenging time since Howie left. Steve thank you for all you are doing, your leadership and your discipleship, and to the whole chaplaincy team for all you are doing to support the life of the airport.
And so, Bruce, as you join the chaplaincy team at this crucial and exciting time, may your faith, your gentleness, and your strong sense of God’s call guide you through the joys and challenges of your new role. May you know God’s blessing upon you as you walk through the terminals, as you pass through security again and again and again, and may you see the face of Christ in those whom you meet.