Firm foundations: the life of a construction-site chaplain
Rev Ewen Huffman is the Chaplain on Europe's largest construction site at Hinkley Point C in Somerset. We invited him to share some insights into his unique role...
So, I’m a one-man ecumenical movement: an ordained Baptist Pastor, seconded to the Church of England (Diocese of Bath and Wells) and paid for by Hinkley Point C (HPC), the largest construction site in Europe, to be their Chaplain to all faiths and none! In myself, background, theology and disposition I’m an AngloBaptiCostal and, as far as I know, I am the only salaried chaplain to the Construction Industry. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but it is the most astonishing and fruitful place to be.
Working with other denominations and dispositions has always been a thrill for me. One of the highlights of my life was leading the unity work in Winchester when I pastored there. It felt like a special team for a special task and time. I also had the privilege of working with the Evangelical Alliance and their Gather unity movement. So working across and without denominational boundaries is second nature to me.
And now, after 30 years as a Pastor, I find myself without a congregation, without the encompassing of Christians… on the coal face for the kingdom of God. And it is possibly the most significant and fruitful thing I’ve ever done!
HPC already cares for workers’ physical needs (with a full blown medical centre) and mental health (with over three hundred Mental Health First Aiders, of which I am one), but has pioneered the path of caring for the whole person with the appointment of a Chaplain for ‘spiritual and pastoral care’ (in January 2020). It’s a bit of a radical and caring appointment for an industry like this!
To be honest, I’m astonished at the reception, favour and opportunities I have been given. It may well be that the Covid situation has accelerated that welcome – but I think we all feel ‘now was the right time to appoint a Chaplain’. I have continued to be on site even during lockdown, giving encouragement and practising our strict social distancing protocols.
My work falls mainly into five areas:
1. Pastoral (being a friend, sounding board, listening ear and often signposting);
2. Presence (just ‘being there’: around site, at events);
3. Ceremony (eg leading prayers before a historic concrete pour or for safety before a tunnel boring machine launches);
4. Community (bringing people together, doing site videos to encourage people, running a choir – virtually during Covid) and liaising between HPC, the local community and their charities for some of our community charity gifts)
5. Spiritual (helping people with spiritual questions, bereavement, leading a small but growing Christian community, liaising with and encouraging other faith communities).
Christians have so much that is taken for granted
In the main area of my remit, ‘spiritual and pastoral care’, two things stand out. Pastorally, a little bit of the pastoral care, that is common in our churches, goes such a long way and is so appreciated! Christians have so much that is taken for granted!
And spiritually, just being here, present – having someone with the office of Chaplain – seems to remind and stir dormant or lost faith (and questions) in people.
Also it has been such a privilege to work with those of other faiths and encourage and learn from them while respecting our diversity and difference – especially the Muslim Community (they were behind the site’s Christmas Tree competition and our Christian Community are going to buy their Eid meal next year).
From here: we’ve got an Alpha Course starting this spring and, once Covid allows, I want to build a team of Volunteer Chaplains so that every area of site has a familiar face. I also want to run parenting, parenting-teenagers, and marriage courses. All before the majority of workforce leave and the site starts to go live in 2025, producing 7% of Britain’s electricity through carbon neutral nuclear power for the next 60 years. And helping Britain achieve our net zero carbon goals.
Watch this short video (voiced by Ewen) produced at the end of 2020 to get a sense of the scale of the HPC project...