Graham Miles: Faith Empowered
Graham Miles has an intriguing role title; he is a Lightwave Rural Chaplain for Suffolk. Jonny Price, Church Army’s Church Resource Officer, spoke to Graham about his journey into chaplaincy and ministry so far…
First, and briefly, what is Lightwave? It is a Christian community made up of small groups which meet in homes, pubs, offices, schools and other places, and works alongside more traditional Church communities.
So what does it mean to be a Rural Chaplain, and how did Graham end up in that role? Graham’s background is in farming; ‘I studied agriculture at college, and then spent a long time working in farming. I speak the language and understand the problems and challenges farmers and others in the rural community are facing.’ This personal experience of the world of farming is hugely important to what Graham does; when he speaks to farmers and their families, he does so having lived that life; when he speaks to agricultural students he does so knowing the uncertainty they face in their chosen profession.
‘In normal circumstances I spend a day a week at agricultural college speaking to students and staff, and two days out and about visiting individual farmers, gamekeepers and their families.’ This support for the whole family is something Graham is passionate about, as the stress and strain of working in agriculture affect the whole family. This support has continued in different ways over lockdown, with Graham staying in touch by phone and email to help support farmers during these particularly challenging times.
How did Graham end up in this role? It all started with a pilot Church Army course in the Dicoese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. This course, now developed into Faith Empowered, is designed to develop those who feel called to evangelistic ministry in the local church. Graham completed the course in 2019, and was licensed as a Lay Evangelist to his local parish. On a trip to a farm show with Andrew Payne, a Church Army Evangelist, Andrew was struck by Graham’s connections to the farming community. In conversation, it became clear that Graham’s calling and ministry should be to the farming community, and so after a phone call and meeting with the Archdeacon, Graham was licensed as a Rural Chaplain.
‘My role is taking a new look at what church is all about. I am taking the church to the people that cannot always get there.’ One example of this is the mens group that Graham runs in Ipswich, at which there are two rules; they don’t talk politics and they don’t talk church. Instead the focus is on building support and community, ‘Although if someone wants to explore their faith, I am willing to chat about it.’
Graham’s role is a fantastic expression of ministry to a particular community, and shows how God has brought together experience, training, and opportunity to open doors for Graham, and allow him to serve those who he is called to. The last words on this should go to Graham;
‘It’s about letting people know that the church does care, even if they aren’t part of a church. It’s about sowing seeds.’
For more info about Lightwave Rural Chaplaincy click here.
For more info about how Faith Empowered can help you develop Lay Evangelists in your area, click here.