A chaplain... in an accountancy firm
In January 2017 I began working one morning a week as an industrial chaplain for a chartered accountancy firm in Newton Abbot where I minister, writes Joe Haward
That’s right, an accountancy firm.
Barretts Chartered Accountants have employed an industrial chaplain for four years, recognising the need to provide pastoral care and support to staff and clients. Harry Gillick took on the role in 2012 when he retired as a Free Church minister, sensing God’s call into this new role. Already a friend of the Directors of Barrett’s, it was a perfect fit, with Harry’s pastoral gifts and strong relationship with the firm.
In 2016 Harry felt God calling him to fully retire. His wife Yvonne was living with the early stages of dementia, and Harry wanted to be able to devote his time to looking after her. Unfortunately Yvonne died in January, yet Harry spoke of his peace, confident in Jesus’ promises to make all things new.
I am new to the role here, seeking to allow space and time for this chaplaincy to develop and evolve according to my own gifts, and the relationships I am building here. I believe in depth relating matters, and I see this chaplaincy role centred upon that, allowing space and time for authentic, trustful relationships with staff to develop and grow.
One of the things I have begun is a meditation session for staff on the morning I am in the office. Gathering in one of the meeting rooms, I provide a time of guided meditation, with techniques for people to learn and use in everyday life and work, that enables them to de-stress, and reconnect with themselves. It is also an opportunity for those gathered to pray and re/connect with God, with space for silent prayer and reflection. The nature of this time means that people can use the meditation and silence in whatever way best reflects their own life and spiritual journey.
Why would an accountancy firm employ a chaplain in the first place? The reality is that financial problems do come, and pastoral care can be sorely needed, yet people do not know which way to turn, who to talk to, or even feel able to talk to anyone about it. My hope is that I can provide that listening ear to clients if, and when, they need it, a source of pastoral support in times of difficulty.
Barretts ‘believe that high ethical standards not only should be, but can be maintained in business, even in this day and age.’ This reflects their desire to employ a chaplain.
The Quality Assurance Department (QAD) noted that Barretts, as far as they were aware, are the only accountancy firm in the UK which employs a chaplain, and were impressed with their forward thinking. This makes the role unique, and open to real development, not only within the firm itself, but more broadly to the wider community, perhaps providing a model that other businesses could adopt and use.
Director Ian Barrett views the role in this way:
“The development of this role goes back a number of years when a client who had just been diagnosed with cancer came to see me before he went home and told his wife. He was very concerned about her financial situation if he died in the near future. From this we started a weekly prayer meeting for all staff who wished to be involved where we could pray for specific needs for our clients and general prayers for the wellbeing of our clients’ health, homes, relationships and businesses.
"When Harry retired from full time ministry we extended this care in a more tangible way by being able to have someone available to meet with clients and staff as and when needs arose or were identified. When Harry retired from this position with us we all felt that we needed to be able to continue this ministry and approached Joe. I have known Joe since he was appointed to Newton Abbot and we are all delighted that he has taken on this role with us and that we are able to continue to offer and develop chaplaincy services to our staff and clients.”
I am thrilled to have joined the team at Barretts, and am looking forward to continue serving them, building relationships, and developing the chaplaincy work here among them.
The Revd Joe Haward is founder of This Hope, a pioneering ministry in Newton Abbot, South Devon. He is the author of The Ghost of Perfection: Searching for Humanity, published in 2017.
You can find him at https://revdjoe.com/blog