Representatives of Birmingham Citadel Salvation Army are involved in chaplaincy across the city. Currently, our chaplains work with the city’s police force, universities and hospitals where they provide a listening ear and share the love of God in practical ways.

Here is an interview from the Police Magazine with one of our Chaplains Major Victor Kennedy who works with West Midlands Police :

How did you become a voluntary chaplain for WMP?

When I moved back to Birmingham from Scotland five years ago, I was aware that a number of Salvation Army clergy are now chaplains to the Police. I decided to make an enquiry with John Butcher, who is the lead chaplain, to see if there was an opening. He did the interview in the most beautiful surroundings… a Costa Coffee. I can certainly cope with that as an interview setting! After all the vetting, I was appointed chaplain to Lloyd House. I really enjoyed the chaplaincy role here, as I got the chance to meet people and build relationships across the force. I am now the chaplain for Forensics.

What does your role entail?

I think the biggest thing in my role is to be able to build relationships with people. People aren’t going to confide in you unless they know you and have seen your face around, so it is all about gaining that trust from people so that they feel confident talking to you.

I think that another major part of my role is to be able to lend an ear in times of need. Certainly, some of the conversations that I have had with employees of this force have been very rich and fulfilling. There have been a few bereavements, and I have even been to a funeral for a member of staff.

As mentioned earlier, I am currently the Forensics’ chaplain, and the reception has been unbelievable. They asked for a chaplaincy, and I am more than happy to pop in and support them . When I go there we have a chaplaincy drop in session so that people can come in anytime over an hour. When I am at the other two locations, I have offered to meet in a Costa Coffee shop for confidential conversations.

In addition, the Salvation Army works with WMP and other police forces to provide assistance for both staff and members of the public. For example, we have a government contract across the UK to work with human trafficking victims. If the police tell us there is a victim who needs taking to a safe house, we are normally the ones that do that.

That’s interesting, so you must also do a lot of other work in the community as well?

The work the Salvation Army does goes far beyond the chaplaincy work with WMP. For example, here in Birmingham, as you might expect, we have a major homeless centre that accommodates around 80 men every night. Equally, we run a domestic violence centre. There are 34 flats on the site, used by women and children who have been abused by their partners.

We also run soup kitchens for the homeless, with about 100 turning up every night, and we also have an asylum seeker centre. I think in the last two years that we have dealt with 10,000 people, this is in partnership with the Roman Catholic Church providing food, clothing for them. So really, we actually deal with a lot of people that the police would deal with as well; we just deal with them from a different perspective.

It must be hard seeing people in these situations, but also rewarding that you can go and help people from all walks of life?

It’s why I do the job. For example, in the congregation at St Chad’s, we have people from India, Nigeria, Congo, to name but a few who worship with us. We are certainly a multi ethnic congregation, and have about 250 people who come every Sunday. In addition, once a year we take over the Symphony Hall and hold two carol services, with 3,000 people attending. You need to be able to mix with all sorts of people in society, especially when you work for a Church/Charity like the Salvation Army.

Moving back to your role with WMP, how does the chaplaincy service help people?

I think giving someone an ear to listen to in times of need is very important. Certainly, my involvement with people in WMP has been very rich. I’ve been able to support people through bereavement, redundancy and crisis situations. Wherever I am the chaplain, the people in the office know my contact details, and I am available any time to have a chat over the phone or via email.

Chaplains are going to be involved in the grievance process. If someone who is going through a grievance in WMP can ask for a chaplain who will be made available to again be a listening ear. We also attend all sorts of police evenings and have won a Diamond Award before, so we do attempt to give as much support as we can to employees in times of need.

Finally, why should people use the chaplaincy service in times of need?

There are about 40 voluntary chaplains in the team and we also have faith advisers too, so there is a huge range of expertise which could make a difference to people’s lives, and I think the organisation is recognising that. In addition, there is a huge range of diversity on the team. Some chaplains are professional practitioners of faith; others come from counselling experiences, so you will get a wide range of advice and support.

We are also completely impartial, and all conversations remain completely confidential. With the current financial challenges, I don’t think there is the sufficient staff required within the organisation to give the dedicated support to members of their team. Our service is free of charge to both the organisation and the employees, as all the chaplains are voluntary. The chaplains are there to give extra support to anyone who needs it, we can also signpost people to other organisations

The chaplains value the difficult job the police have to do We see both officers and support staff as vital in WMP and we want to support them and make sure you feel valued, supported and appreciated for what you do.

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