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Tourism Chaplaincy

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The following article by Deacon Maggie Patchett, Chaplain to Tourism Workers in the South Lakes Circuit, was published in the Westmorland Gazette. It gives insight into her role and that of the chaplaincy and how the industry was affected by the first national lockdown put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As Chaplains to the tourism industry, our aim is to be ...

"among people, with people, for people, providing a caring listening ear" to the stories people want to share – about their work, their families, their life, their worries; to be present, available, where we are invited, not imposing our ideas on others in any way, just showing love, support and care; helping people cope with the stresses of life.

Normally I would call by cafes, hotels, B&Bs and other tourism outlets in the Ambleside / Windermere / Bowness area, on a fairly regular basis. Obviously this has not been possible over the past 3 months, but now as places open up again, I am re-starting this.

Now more than ever, we know people are likely to be under stress, whether that is the owners / managers, worried about their businesses, staff worried about jobs, and everyone worried about covid and its associated risks for people.

So I've made 'Welcome Back' cards for each venue I visit – with a local photo on the front, and a re-worked version of the well-known Psalm 23 'The Lord is my shepherd' inside, to help in times of stress. Written by Toki Miyashina, the 'psalm' reads:

The Lord is my pacesetter. I shall not rush.
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals, He provides me with images of stillness, which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency, through calmness of mind, and His guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day I will not fret, for His presence is here;
His timeless-ness, His all-importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity by anointing my mind with His oils of tranquillity;
my cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours, for I shall walk at the pace of my Lord, and dwell in His house forever.

Alongside this every member of staff receives a small individual card reminding them to take time for themselves, with my contact details on the back.

As I have gone into places in the last 2 days this was when Maggie first returned after lockdown, I have been met with a whole range of responses:

  • People glad to be back at work again
  • Pleased that bookings are coming in – in some cases thick and fastPleased that they are no longer stuck at home themselves, and are able to be out and about, carrying on with their jobs
  • Happy that we have visitors back in the Lake District.

But also the anxiety

  • Of doing things in a different, unnatural way – keeping everyone at a distance when hospitality is all about welcoming people
  • Of 'how do I know I have cleaned everything that was touched by the last guest '
  • 'what if we have to close again – cancel all those bookings we are now taking'
  • Anxiety about all the new procedures and protocols to be followed
  • Of hoping there will be enough trade to get through to next season
  • Admitting to the stress of the past 3 months as well as acknowledging that things are likely to continue to be stressful.

I have been greeted by smiles and thanks – for thinking of them and for being there if / when they need a chaplain to talk to. Greeted with relief too – for the knowledge that someone will be there to talk to if they need them.

Some places are still to open, and many have reduced staffing, until numbers of tourists increase – but that is likely to happen quickly now. Already in the last 3 days I have noticed the increase in the number of visitors around the place.

It's good to be out and about again, greeting 'old friends', being there for others. I've also met new people, new managers and staff as some places having changed hands during the shut-down.

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