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Outlet Chaplaincy

a message from Sophie Carnaby-Denyer, Mission Enabler, Ashford Town Parish

I love shopping. I especially love finding something perfect for someone I care about and, of course, I really love finding a bargain. So, when I was asked to be a chaplain at Ashford Designer Outlet I thought it seemed like an ideal fit. I am now one of the first four chaplains in the Outlet and it really is a fantastic way of demonstrating the love of God by supporting people’s wellbeing in their workplace. I am enjoying my weekly visits to the Outlet and am grateful for this opportunity. I’m not sure my husband would agree since the first week I was there I went back to the stores I’d visited and spent more than £100!

One of the things that has surprised me about the Outlet chaplaincy is the quality of the welcome we have received. The management team have been enthusiastic about having a chaplaincy team and have met all our practical needs, and the retail staff have been pleased to see us when we’ve visited them. We have already had some very meaningful conversations and been able to offer support to people going through difficult times.

I wonder if Jesus was as surprised at the welcome he received as he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The welcome we have received at the Outlet has been remarkable but, fortunately, no one has mutilated any trees on our behalf! I also hope our welcome lasts longer than Jesus’s did. Within a week the very people who cheered, threw down their cloaks and laid down branches when Jesus entered Jerusalem were calling for his execution. That must have been an emotional rollercoaster for Jesus and his disciples.

Perhaps there’s something we can take from the idea of going where we are welcome, even if it’s outside our comfort zone. There are plenty of opportunities for us to demonstrate the love of God to people where our help would be welcomed. We need more chaplains at the Outlet and, soon, in the town centre. We need help with the work we are doing with the refugees housed in the hotels. We need more help at Ignite. Please let me know if you’re interested in volunteering or if you would like help finding the right opportunity for you.

I look forward to hearing from you!

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