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Story 91 - Pub and Prison Chaplain
Consett, County Durham

By Suzie Abramian in conversation with Mel Nixon  01/03/2021
 
Story91 - Pic1 Mel Nixon from Blackhill Baptist Church, Consett, overflows with enthusiasm and passion for her unique ministerial calling as a Chaplain in a local pub as well as a prison Chaplain, praising God as she shares the amazing ways in which the Holy Spirit has led her and others along the way.
Ordained as a Chaplain in July 2019, she explains how she always knew God wanted her to be a presence in the local Wetherspoons pub, identifying it as a place with a family feel where so many in the local community gather, including those who are also lonely and vulnerable. Originally believing that she was meant to work there, Mel acquired a job there for a couple of months before sensing God had another very specific role in mind.
Approaching the manager, Mel recalls how she simply asked if she could be a Chaplain in the pub, offering to be a regular presence and person to talk to for the customers. The manager agreed and interestingly Mel notes how she feels it was her brief work there beforehand that had paved the way, saying how the manager has since said she never would have agreed to Mel being a Chaplain without knowing her first. Furthermore, her experience of working there has enabled her to help.
Despite only being able to officially work as a Chaplain in the pub for about a year before the Coronavirus pandemic hit, Mel has settled in well to the role, saying she has already seen God opening people’s hearts, facilitating conversations with customers and staff alike. She reflects that meeting people where they are comfortable and not beginning with talk about faith, unless others initiate it, appears to connect more with people. There have also been other opportunities as she has come into contact with other churches through the pub. A local Methodist Church normally holds its weekly bible study there and along with other churches they were able to have carol singing at Christmas time in the pub in 2018 and 2019.

Although the pub Chaplaincy work has been suspended now for the best part of a year, she has been able to continue with her other Chaplaincy work in a local prison, which has conversely flourished. Initially going on placement over 4 years ago to a nearby women’s prison during her theology study at Cranmer Hall, Durham, she has continued to work on a contractual basis in the prison. Over the pandemic she has seen an enormous increase in her hours partly due to other staff absence. Much like the work in the pub, Mel operates out of a place of availability for the inmates, being free to talk and often accompanied by gifts such as puzzles, colouring books or bibles. She also assists in the weekly services in the prison and bible studies, places where she says she has seen incredible transformations happen. Mel says that she has always seen God’s Spirit working in the prison but over the last year there appears to have been a particular outpouring of God working, turning even the most adamant atheists towards Jesus.
Whether it be in the pub or the prison, Mel exudes the same missional approach, which is simply to be where Jesus would be, love people where they are at and focus on the relationships which often take time, or as Mel says, ‘take God’s time.’ And whilst not everyone may be called to Chaplaincy work per say, Mel’s example of faith, particularly towards following God in his mission, can arguably be applied in many contexts. She places great emphasis on praying and following God wherever he leads, even if that involves a risk, saying that it ‘seems so obvious but we make it so hard!’ That’s not to say that she hasn’t been challenged herself, recalling how she left a well-paid job in order to go to bible college with no other income, or when she thought she was originally meant to be working as bar staff in the pub, but God had other plans. Yet, in all these things, Mel says how she has seen the goodness of God, in his provision and in his faithfulness, all because she has moved with him as he has led.
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Suzie Abramian
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