Southampton Airport played host to an annual conference of airport chaplains in May this year with twenty eight chaplains from airports across the UK meeting together to be briefed about airport developments and to exchange chaplain news. The chaplains also received a talk from Carry Taylor, of Bournemouth airline Palmair, about a new fear-of-flying course, and took part in a training session specifically designed for airport chaplains.
Southampton Airport itself has three airport chaplains: Reverend Neville Jacob, Reverend Richard Davies and Reverend Martin Poole, who provide counselling and support to passengers as well as to the airport’s 1200 staff. Fellow airport chaplains travelled to the airport from Heathrow, Newcastle, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Shoreham and even as far as Aberdeen.
Event organiser Reverend Neville Jacob said of the conference that all the chaplains thoroughly enjoyed the day, and that their presence at the airport was a great boost to the work of the chaplains already at Southampton. He added that “having such a large group of chaplains together at one time must have been quite surprising to passengers waiting for flights”. The annual conference follows recent reports that airport chaplains have requested clearer rules regarding tasks, responsibilities and guidelines for chaplaincy ministry due to the increased demands on their time over the last few years. With the rise of terror alerts since September 11, airport chaplains have been faced with ever more frequent requests for chaplaincy support, and have as such requested further guidance on their role at UK airports. Following the alert in August 2006, for example, when a number of arrests were made after a plot to use liquid explosives was uncovered, chaplaincy teams across the country were required to put emergency plans into action, providing passengers with round-the-clock assurance, prayer and emotional guidance.