Tuesday, August 25, 2009

God but no cigarettes at Gatwick

From The London Guardian-

Nobody goes to Gatwick Airport looking for spiritual nourishment. And they certainly wouldn't expect to find God inside of Gatwick's grim institutional walls. But the Airport Chapel is a surprising oasis of peace and calm.

The chapel is a comfortable room, reserved for prayer and reflection, though many use it as a place to read, check email, or simply escape the horror that is Gatwick.

There are Christian services three days a week, with Roman Catholic, Anglican, and the Free Church chaplains attending to the spiritual needs of travellers and airport workers.

The first service on Sunday was the Free Church. Lt. Colonel Stephen Pallant of the Salvation Army was chaplain. He prepared the room by putting out a simple wooden cross and then, to my horror, he placed the book "Anglican Hymns Old and New" on each chair. Surely, we wouldn't be singing? I was the only one there! He then put some music on the stereo and my discomfort grew. But when Lt. Colonel Steve saw that no one else would be coming, he pulled up a chair for a chat instead. Saved!

"Sometimes I get a big crowd, and others there is nobody. I can't take it personally." I asked about his largest group and he said he once had 20 people whose flight had been delayed. Flight delays are good business for the Airport Chapel.

The chapel is hidden and services are found by prior knowledge, divine intervention, or through the announcements. Lt. Colonel Steve explained that announcements should be made both 30 minutes and 15 minutes before each service. The problem, he complained, lies with the announcer, who sometimes forgets or speaks in a garbled accent. "The system is fraught with problems."

More here-


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