Bishop helps sailors in the frontline fight against Covid

Providing the moral and spiritual support to help fellow sailors through the Covid-19 pandemic is Bristol Naval reservist and chaplain Simon Chapman.

Based at Bristol’s HMS Flying Fox, Simon – like all Senior Service chaplains known affectionately as ‘bish’ – has spent five years in the Royal Naval Reserve after serving as a full-time chaplain with the RAF and as a reservist with the Army.

The 45-year-old is chaplain of Clifton College boarding school in Bristol by day – and also chaplain to the lifeboat station at Portishead.

With the school closed, Simon has been mobilised as part of the military’s response force to the pandemic, helping either those on the front-line in the fight against the virus such as medics, surgeons and nurses, as well as their families, or providing advice and guidance to commanding officers.

“If spiritual, pastoral or welfare needs are identified, I can help to meet these needs. He continued: “The great part about being a member of the Royal Navy is that I never feel that I am on my own.

“When I encounter a situation with an individual that is complex, I can immediately call on the assistance of medical staff, mental health professionals, welfare support workers and the individual’s chain of command. This means that the individual receives all of the support that they need – incredibly quickly.”

Last week, I provided pastoral care to an officer who has just returned from the Middle East, supported an individual whose close friend has sadly died and worked on a project designed to provide mental and emotional support to Naval families living under lockdown conditions.

His three years with the air force included a deployment to Kandahar as chaplain for the 1,500 British personnel stationed at the Afghan based. He joined troops on patrol and helicopters on sorties, provided pastoral care and led services at the base, spent time with casualties and led vigil services and repatriation ceremonies for the fallen.

He became a naval reservist “to experience something completely different, go to new places and feel that I’m doing something that at times may be nationally significant.

“I’m someone who thrives on change and challenge. The Royal Navy provides me with a constant flow of changing locations, deployments and people to work with. No two days are alike.”