At YMCA DownsLink Group we have a chaplaincy service which supports some of our projects and staff, and we hope in time to develop this service so that all young people and staff can access chaplaincy support.
We currently have a Lead Chaplain, Lucy McGrath, recruited to expand and develop the chaplaincy service and to build links with churches and faith groups. We also have a number of YMCA volunteer chaplains who support young people and staff.
YMCA DownsLink Group is an inclusive Christian organisation. Our staff and young people are from all faiths and none. In order to help everyone understand chaplaincy we use the following words:
A chaplain is someone, usually from a church or faith group, who wants to support people in their communities. There are often chaplains in hospitals, sometimes in schools and in all sorts of everyday settings.
Our YMCA volunteer chaplains are here to offer support to residents and staff. The daily pressures of life can get to us all. Our volunteer chaplains are here to listen and to chat, and if you have worries, large or small, you can share them if you want to. Everything is confidential unless they are worried about your safety or someone else’s safety.
They are also here to explore spiritual issues with you if you choose, and if you would like them to pray with you or for you, just ask. They will not try to convert you to their faith; they will respect what you believe. They are here for everyone, no matter what your spiritual beliefs or background.
Our hope for chaplaincy services is that they help some of the young people who live in our housing projects to feel heard, valued and accepted and to glimpse something of God’s love. We also hope that they will help the young people to feel part of the wider community – to help them feel they belong.
Hayley’s story helps show the difference chaplaincy makes.
Hayley has lived in a YMCA DownsLink Group hostel for over two years and has been attending the weekly chaplaincy night for most of that time.
She says, “I’d been living here for 3 months when I first went along to one of the chaplaincy evenings. That first evening I was trying to watch a programme on the computer in the entrance hall but Judi (volunteer chaplain) kept talking to me. In the end I turned the computer off and went over to the chaplaincy group for a chat. The free donuts helped too – especially at first!
“After that I popped down to see them most weeks. To be honest it made the hostel feel more like home. It wasn’t just the donuts…talking to them each week has made me feel less lonely. Looking back I felt quite isolated when I first lived here and I feel less lonely now. As well as meeting the chaplains it gave me the chance to get to know other residents too.
“Apart from that it’s been good to know that someone notices how you are. I get on great with my keyworker and meet with her regularly but sometimes it’s good to get a different opinion. There have been times when I’ve been struggling and I’ve appreciated being able to share that with the chaplains, I feel they have heard my pain.
“I know they will be there each week – that really helps particularly if I have had a bad week. Having someone who is happy to see me makes me feel better – and it’s a chance to hang out with other residents too. And we love the free donuts!
“Where religion’s concerned I grew up thinking God was ashamed of you and you need to work harder, rather than thinking there’s a God who loves me. I’m not sure whether I believe in God or not but it has shown me that there is a side of Christianity which is more accepting. I only found out recently that the chaplains are happy to pray for anyone who asks – I kind of think they have already been praying for me anyway!”
How can you or your church support the chaplaincy?
To develop chaplaincy services further we need more committed volunteer chaplains – people of faith who are kind, good listeners, non-judgemental and with a sense of humour. They will work in small teams and have some training and support. The usual commitment is one evening every 2-3 weeks ideally for a minimum of a year. We need people in Crawley, Horsham, Worthing, Brighton and Guildford, although some of these chaplaincy services may not start till 2017. We also need money to help fund these services.
We would love to have individuals and churches involved in this. If you would like to find out more please contact Lucy McGrath firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally we always need your prayers –thank you. To subscribe to a bi-monthly Churches Connect email prayer newsletter, please email email@example.com.
Feedback about the Chaplaincy
The chaplaincy have been a great support for staff, residents and visitors to the centre, they have been a helping hand during times of crisis, bereavement and stress for staff and residents; they bring a sense of warmth, welcome and wonderful donuts with them always. They are reliable and energetic, promote social inclusion and a sense of belonging when young people are feeling isolated and alone; they get involved in events, anniversaries and activities and really are an asset to the YMCA.
YMCA Staff member
When I have a difficult week it’s often chaplaincy I look forward too. Some of them I see also as mentors like if I am having a rough time I can vent to them and they are always happy to see you and are welcoming.
A Chaplaincy has been established at the Y Centre, Horsham for some time. Read more here.