Last Sunday evening, our vicar told us about an experience he had in an Asda store. He walked in – and saw a Greek Orthodox monk, in full robes, with a shopping basket over his arm. He did an (understandable) double-take, and then thought it had to be a student prank, or something of the sort. So he went up to the guy to talk to him, and got as far as ‘Are you really…’ before noticing his badge which said ‘Asda’s Official Chaplain’. The monk said, ‘Yes, I am really”, and they had a conversation about what he does and why Asda feels that having a chaplain in-store is a good idea. Apparently, he has several people come up to talk to him about their problems, their life stories, or just wanting to know why he was there. And the Rev also talked to a few other store employees, who said that their chaplain was amazing, and that he showed others a lot about the love of God.
I find this intriguing. At first thought, chaplains in a supermarket seems a pretty daft idea. Yet, a vast number of people say that they don’t have time to go to church, to make a weekly commitment to meeting with other Christians (or people of a similar faith) and to worship with them. And many other people are searching for something to believe in, yet feel intimidated by the idea of calling up a priest or vicar, or visiting a church to ask questions or get some answers. So, why not chaplains in places where people visit on a regular basis? And this particular Asda is not unique. There’s the Bishop of Asda in Manchester, and an Asda store in Elgin appointed a chaplain in 2003. Doing a ‘google’ seems to turn up all sorts of chaplains in all sorts of places – Sainsbury’s, too.
Well, if the people aren’t coming to church, why not take the church to the people?? Sounds like a a few loaves and fishes might be on offer, too… 😉