Meet Church Army’s Chaplain
Church Army Evangelists play a critical role in chaplaincy across diverse fields, such as healthcare, prisons and sports teams. They provide religious, spiritual and pastoral support to all sorts of individuals, and they demonstrate the importance of chaplaincy work in today’s changing world. As more and more people grapple with mental health concerns, the cost-of-living crisis and daily challenges, the need for support and guidance is greater than ever. However, it’s also important to consider the needs and well-being of the Evangelists who give their support and time to the care of others. Where do they turn for guidance and pastoral care? Meet David Booker, the Chaplain for Church Army. He offers support, care and guidance to the entire Church Army family.
I grew up in a Christian family, so church was always part of the scene. As a teenager, I felt called to some kind of ministry and I discovered Church Army on holiday in Weymouth, where there was a beach mission team and I later joined them as a volunteer. I fell in love with what Church Army was doing and I applied to become a Commissioned Evangelist and began my training at Blackheath.
My role as CA Chaplain is slightly different to other chaplaincy roles, as I am available to all CA staff, retired Evangelists, Commissioned Evangelists and the mission community. In most chaplaincy roles, you can walk around, be a visible presence and let people approach you. In this particular job, I can’t do that because the people I serve are all over the UK and Ireland, so it’s important that people know they can contact me. My role is also to make sure that, as an organisation, we have the right structures in place to support people. When someone needs help, my role is a little like a pastoral paramedic service. I assess their needs, give spiritual first aid and get them to where they need to be for the best care.
It’s a privileged position. When people come to you with really personal things, they’re trusting you with the most precious part of themselves, showing their vulnerabilities and that is really humbling. Church Army has people in some of the toughest places, dealing with traumatic situations. That has an impact on each of them, so we need to carry those people and love them.
Recently, I was spending some time talking to an Evangelist regularly because they were walking through a bereavement with a family whose child had been terminally ill. It was taking a toll on the family but also on the Evangelist. In that situation, the Evangelist was the hands and feet of Jesus, making sure the family knew that God loved them by sitting with them, crying with them and holding their hands through it all. It was heartbreaking, but it was inspirational at the same time. The Evangelist was with them, walking through the pain, and so, of course, they needed someone to talk to as well.
As well as providing support to people and making sure the right help is in place for everyone, my role also involves looking at how we work supporting each other as a mission community. Church Army has changed over the years; we’ve always looked at new ways to do things, and that will keep happening. That means how we belong to each other will need to change as the work changes alongside social and technological shifts. The best people to support us are the people who pray for us and work alongside us. As a mission community, we will always be changing because we want to support, equip and encourage people to be the very best they can.