Ministry on the construction site

Peter StevensonUnited Reformed Church Special Category Minister the Revd Peter Stevenson has completed six months as Site Chaplain to the Elephant Park Development in South London. 

The development currently employs 500 people and this is expected to rise to 2,000 when all the phases come on stream. The developers, Lend Lease, wanted to trial a chaplaincy service to add to their well-being programmes. The chaplaincy operates for four hours per week and has proved a great success.

Since last October Mr Stevenson has contact with around 350 people each time he makes a visit. He walks up and down the scaffold, wherever they are pouring cement, or driving piles. ‘I present myself as a listening ear to all faiths and none.’

The construction industry can be pretty brutal, he says. ‘The workers want to talk about many things. It’s an international workforce, so there are is a lot of dealing with immigration issues. It is remarkable how many of them talk about loneliness. Connections with people back at home are not as strong as they could be.’

‘One conversation began with me being greeted: “Welcome to hell”.

We talked around that for a while and found things that were more like heaven than hell’.

‘Another called me aside saying, “I just need to tell you how bad things are at the moment”. After five to 10 minutes of talking. He said “that’s it”. He just needed someone to hear what he had to say.’

‘In conversation with senior managers, we often talk about the enormous pressure to get things right and to match expectations. There are a lot of frustrations.’

The CEO of Lend Lease has been very complimentary about this work, and spoke about how chaplains are vital in the workplace and especially in construction.

The URC has 35 chaplains caring for people in hospitals, schools, workplaces, prison and the armed forces. Many more URC ministers give part of their time to chaplaincy work.

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