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Meet the Chaplain: Helen Lewis

28 October, 2021

British Transport
Police Federation
October 28, 2021

Meet the Chaplain: Helen Lewis

Railway Chaplains aim to be an impartial 'friend' for those who work on the railways, including our members. Regardless of faith, gender, sexual orientation, Railway Mission chaplains offer face-to-face support for people experiencing loneliness, stress, depression, bereavement, or illness. Helen Lewis is the chaplain for South, Mid and West Wales and she's based just outside Cardiff. As she's one of the newest chaplains on the rail network, we asked her a few questions to find out more about her and her role.

What is a Railway Chaplain?

I guess the simplest way to describe a chaplain is an "independent friend". I'm someone you can talk to confidentially about anything, who will listen without making judgements and help with whatever issue you're dealing with. I'm impartial and available to support anyone who works in the rail industry or British Transport Police.

What motivated you to take on this job?

I believe that we all have a unique set of skills and talents and I think mine lie mainly in the area of pastoral support. I love spending time with people and I'm always up for a coffee and a chat! Over the course of my life, I've experienced many difficult times and I hope that those experiences will, in turn, help me to support others who are going through similar circumstances. I wasn't looking for a job when this one came along, but through a series of circumstances it became clear that this was where I was supposed to be. It's a long story - too much for a blog post, but if you ever see me around, feel free to ask me more about it!

What kind of things do people discuss with you?

Anything and everything! From today's weather to fatalities that they've attended and pretty much anything else in between. Work pressures, health issues, family concerns, bereavements, tough calls at work, rugby results, plans for the weekend, what they're having for tea… I never really know what I'll be discussing next!

How as anything struck you about the BTP officers you have met so far?

That they're a very friendly bunch who've really welcomed me to my role. Alongside some of the more solemn conversations, I've also had lots of laughs. Of the officers I've met so far, I've been struck by how many times, when conversations turn to the less pleasant aspects of the role, I've heard the phrase "It's just part of the job!". Their commitment to "getting the job done", however difficult it might be, is evident whenever we talk. I'm also aware that sometimes that commitment can have unwanted consequences and so one important part of my role is to be around if there are times when "getting the job done" has adverse effects.

What has your job taught you so far?

I started this job during lockdown which meant that much of the initial contact I had with people was via email/telephone. As lockdown has eased and I've been able to meet people in person, it's become even more evident to me that we are people who need relationships. We need human face-to-face interaction. We need times to offload to someone, to have a bit of a rant, or a cry, or a really good laugh!

Those sorts of relationships are far easier to build when we spend time with each other. It's far more common for someone to open up and talk to me about something during the course of a face-to-face chat than it is via an email or telephone call and so it's taught me that the role of a chaplain who can visit regularly, build relationships, be a friend and offer support is just as relevant and needed now, as it's ever been.

If you haven't yet met your local chaplain yet, you can find them via the Railway Mission website.