Industrial Chaplaincy

Chaplain in Industry

Industrial chaplaincy is chaplaincy in workplaces of all descriptions including heavy industrial manufacturing and construction sites. This chaplaincy also scopes to include airports and seaports

Industrial chaplain:

Chaplaincy in factories in Australia is synonymous with the name of Lawrence Styles (1998) who has given an account of his industrial chaplaincy work in Melbourne. Whilst the worker priest model in France was a different model whereby the priest was an actual factory worker working alongside other workers, industrial chaplaincy grew up in the immediate post-WWII Britain in places such as Coventry. Through his friendship with Sir Frank Woods, the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne (1958 – 1977), Styles arrived in Melbourne at the end of 1959 after working in Sheffield and he continued until 1990 with the Interchurch Trade and Industry Mission (ITIM). Also in 1959, Rev. Vern Harrison had initiated a management and industrial chaplaincy to BHP in Whyalla and independently in Melbourne, Rev. John Turner had begun a ministry at the Holeproof factory in Fitzroy in inner Melbourne. There had also been another initiative at BHP in Newcastle (Styles 1998).

The industrial chaplains always had an easily identifiable role on the factory floor because at that early time industrial counselling services did not exist. Australian chaplains quickly formed a united bloc with their first joint meeting in 1960. In the words of Styles, the industrial chaplaincy has had three objectives:

  1. that the world of work is a part of God’s realm and that people matter in a work community,
  2. the care of the hurt and disadvantaged within the work community and also for the unemployed without a work community and
  3. the development of a competent theology of work and industrial chaplaincy. Industrial chaplaincy was always ecumenical in nature with the mainstream churches working together, and there was always lay involvement.

The work of ITIM and Industrial chaplaincy continues today through the Integrated Onsite Support model at Converge International, a workplace mental health provider that includes chaplaincy in its suite of onsite support options. Through this holistic model of care, chaplaincy continues to be a key wellbeing initiative for some of Australia’s biggest companies.

Airport chaplaincy:

Airport Chaplains Logo
Airport chaplaincy grew out of air force chaplaincy and the staffing of civil airports during the dangerous times of World War II. It was always designed as directed to both airport employees and travellers – now many major international airports employ more than 10,000 people. The first civilian airport chaplaincy opened in 1951 at Boston airport through the initiative of Cardinal Cushing, and was subsequently driven by Catholic clergy in the US and Europe with the strong support of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants which led to the formation of the International Association of Civil Aviation Chaplains (See )

Development was slow during the 1950s but in 1967 a Belgian priest with a French priest colleague convened the inaugural meeting of International Association of Civil Aviation Chaplains (IACAC) which was always conceived as an ecumenical project. It is an active organisation and has very regular international conferences with 70 – 100 participants. By 1999, 100 international airports were staffed with chaplains. Most chaplains have been involved in emergency planning as well as the establishment of chapels and prayer rooms, and their organisation has been instrumental in producing training documents and protocols in dealing with aircraft disaster. Their recent concerns have been about cross-cultural communication as well as the recognition of persons trafficked through airports. Civil aviation chaplaincy has grown as airports have expanded in size.

The IACAC website refers to ten airport chaplaincies in Australia (Adelaide, Alice Springs, Bankstown, Darwin, Hobart, Jandakot, Launceston, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney) though four have no chaplain. Sydney has a chapel and prayer room as does Melbourne with a multifaith prayer room but nothing at the other eight airports.

In summary, airport chaplaincy in Australia has always been a marginal operation underpinned by the commitment of the Salvation Army and the Anglican Church. The likelihood of this changing, unfortunately, is not great.

Seafarers’ Chaplaincy:

Mission to Seafarers
The origins of the chaplaincy to seafarers may go back to New Testament times with the fishermen apostles but, in fact, it was initiated with the foundation of the Anglican Mission to Seafarers in 1856 in the U.K. after pioneering work by an Anglican priest, Dr. John Ashby, working with volunteers. The evolution of the Mission to Seafarers evolved out of Britain’s large merchant fleet in the last part of the nineteenth century and the early 20th century. In Melbourne in 1857, the Mission to Seafarers Melbourne began as the Victorian Seaman’s Mission, and its centre is now at the end of Flinders Street next to police headquarters. There eventually evolved the Flying Angels Centres which continue to offer communications facilities and rest and relaxation areas as well as, in some cases, accommodation away from their ships. Currently in Victoria there are four Flying Angel Centres at Melbourne, Geelong, Hastings and Portland which are supported by a local chaplain and volunteers.

There have always been good relations between the Anglican and Catholic organisations. Though the origins dare from the late 1890s with the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, in 1920 the Catholic Apostleship of the Sea was formed in Glasgow with the proliferation across the world of Stella Maris (Star of the Sea) centres in more than 200 ports in over 30 countries. In Melbourne it was located behind St. Augustine’s Church in Bourke St. but now seems to have moved to Hastings.

Over the decades the impact of change upon international and coastal shipping and its crewing has been huge. Port visits are now much shorter. It is clear that the Christian commitment to seafarers visiting the Australian nation’s ports, always dependent upon the work of volunteers, is in a struggling state.

Port of Hastings
Port arrivals are quickly followed by unloading and departure