I really enjoy the times I go places and meet people – and ‘shadow’ clergy doing their job.
So today was spent with one of the Padre’s at RAF Leuchars which sits on the edge of the North Sea just north of St Andrews. Over 2000 people work there so it’s a huge and busy place.
So what did I find …. RAF staff, like many people, feel that they are being asked to do more and more with less and less. The Cold War has gone but been replaced by deployments to Iraq and other places, humanitarian missions – and, of course, the response to terrorism at home. And deployment may mean 4 months away at very short notice.
They sat me in a plane – the pilot, who was the age of my own children, reminded me that it was as old as he is. I think I can just about get in touch with the ‘passion for flying’ that some of them told me about but it felt like scary stuff compared with my shuttling back and forth to Belfast on Easyjet. And I thought about reading the Biggles books of my childhood where the great technical advance was the ability to fire a machine gun forwards through the propellor blades.
The Padre is very much part of the organisation and a vital element in the way in which the stresses and strains are dealt with. And there was much in common with the church – the challenge of living in community; the way in which people exist within an institution which has a clearly defined way of living. And like all chaplains, the Padre enjoys the privileged position of being within the organisation but not within the reporting, managerial structure.