Series following chaplains in Liverpool. Bill Sanders, a chaplain and a trained firefighter, goes on 999 calls. James Harding introduces overseas students to Christmas rituals.
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Chaplains are modern-day disciples.
Who would like chopsticks?
Excuse me, are you Jewish?
-You got any Jewish pals here?
They take the word of God out of the church
and into the places we work and play.
This is what Christ did, he came and walked and talked
and lived amongst people, and this is really what a chaplain does.
They're employed in our hospitals and universities,
-at the football ground, on the street.
-This is where we should be.
You know, these people are not going to
be in church at 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning, because they are going to be in bed.
Tonight, the anxious wait while a child has an operation.
It's quite scary, quite nerve wracking.
The 999 chaplain on an emergency call.
If you do a job well as a chaplain,
you can make a difference there, right in the heart of the community.
And explaining Christmas rituals to overseas students.
Does anyone know what these are called?
We're following chaplains in the city of Liverpool,
the work they do, and the people's lives they touch.
Bill Sanders is the vicar of St Bridget's Church in Wavertree.
But he's leading a double life.
Bill's a chaplain and a firefighter with Merseyside Fire service.
My call sign, to everyone's amusement, used to be Rev-1.
This fella wrote on my gloves, on one glove he put, "Charlie."
On the other one he put, "Chaplain."
It's a different hype of ministry.
It's what you might call frontline ministry.
It's about real life, and real life, and sometimes real death situations.
Today Bill's doing a shift at Old Swan fire station.
Standing by to help crewmates and the public at fires
and road accidents across the city.
At any instant I will be looking to see if I can help and support.
I'm primarily there for the fire service personnel,
but sometimes the senior officer, or officer in charge,
might ask me to get involved with the families of people who are hurt,
or even killed. And I would do that.
Fire service people are great people, a very special breed.
So, I just love working with them.
If I can be of any help to them, or any support,
then that's what I'm aiming for.
I think I have said somewhere else,
it's every boy's dream to ride fire engines,
and I never realised that I'd be doing it at the age of 58 onwards.
Over 200,000 young patients are treated
at Liverpool's Alder Hey Hospital every year.
Today, Chaplain Dave Williams is checking the prayer board
in the hospital chapel.
Parents often use it to ask them for help.
Just looking at the prayers now, I think you can sense
in even some of these that are on, the frustration in some families.
You know, not knowing why this has happened,
but in sort of praying almost to this God
who doesn't seem to be listening.
I mean, lady once said to me,
"You know, I sometimes feel that God is laughing,
"because the more I pray, my child gets worse."
I said, "No, that's not the way God is. Not the God I know."
We've had a family recently, a little boy called Layton,
and his mum, Zoe.
And Zoe lost a little one last year,
a little fella, and she was very, very angry.
And I think, didn't know how to express this, really,
because she was angry with God,
but in the same way was holding on to God,
because that was her contact with the little one who's gone before.
Having lost her baby to cot death, Zoe Acton's now in hospital
with her eldest son.
Layton's having difficulty breathing at night,
and she's worried the same thing will happen again.
It's even more panicking for myself than any other parent
sleeping at night, because I've already lost a little boy last year.
It's very, very scary. A big ordeal to deal with.
I don't like to sleep in case he just passes away like his brother did.
Hiya, love. Hello, matey, how are you? Come in here with me.
Since losing Layton's baby brother,
Zoe has struggled with her faith.
She's been seeing Dave, the hospital chaplain,
for spiritual counselling.
Very angry with God at the moment.
And I have had a few shouting matches up there with him,
-but that's my way of dealing with it.
-That's good. That's good.
You know, Jesus on the cross,
God as his dad was never nearer to him than when he was on the cross.
But Jesus couldn't feel him there. I think that's probably where you are.
-Doesn't mean that God is not here, but you can't feel him there.
Because you're so angry, and because everything seems so empty.
I was so sad yesterday night, and a feather just dropped down,
just a little feather, and they say it's a feather of an angel.
-So, we've kept that, that's going in his box.
-Where do you think Mason is, then?
-Where is heaven? Where do you think that is?
It's lots of little nice white clouds, and the golden gates.
-So, you're happy with the golden gates?
-Can we have a little blessing?
-Would you let me hold your hand?
If people don't have faith, I think they walk a very lonely journey.
I think if people can come and just realise they're not on their own,
that there is a God who cares for them,
I think it makes such a difference.
-God bless you as well.
In a week's time Layton will be back at Alder Hey
for an operation which will hopefully
sort out his breathing problems.
Fire service chaplain, Bill Sanders,
is down at the fire station for the start of a nightshift.
He's trained up to be a working member of the team.
I think it's important for Christians, in general,
and certainly for ministers, to be right at the cutting edge,
where people are being real, real situations are happening,
it's not insular,
and if you do your job well as a chaplain,
you can make a difference there, right in the heart of the community.
If the church isn't relevant, then it will die.
Bonfire night is one of the busiest times of the year
for the fire service.
Bill and the crew are all ready on their way to their first callout.
I think one of the problems with the church is that they haven't
been out on the streets enough in the past.
They've kind of hidden behind their little four walls.
People sometimes get the impression we're like a little private club.
Fill your boots, Padre.
I think built with some wheelie bins.
So, that's sorted, and on to the next job.
It's probably going to go on all night, this.
Across the city, a fire's been lit by a group of teenagers.
It's near houses, and it's getting out of control.
We think this one is dangerous, so we're going to put it out.
They've actually been putting wheelie bins in there.
The neighbours have complained.
You know, they've been taken from their houses.
It's by a wall and a tree, it's quite dangerous, really.
Are the kids happy about you putting it out?
No, they're not happy, but too bad, really.
Yeah, it is wheelie bins.
If any of those kids tonight were in a fire,
these lads would put their lives on the line for them
to get them out and to save them.
To be seen as part of these teams, for me, is just tremendous.
It's not many people who have started out as a vicar
would end up in a situation like this.
I'm finished for tonight.
I've got a service first thing in the morning in church.
So, I'm getting off a lot earlier than everyone else
is going to tonight.
So, just getting on to midnight, so I'm getting off home.
Try and get some sleep.
At Liverpool University, the first term is nearly over,
and most of the students will soon be heading home.
The University's Anglican chaplain, James Harding,
has set himself an unusual end of term challenge.
He's hosting an early Christmas dinner for 25 Chinese students.
It's just like making a big roast dinner, but for 25 to 30 people.
What can go wrong?
I just think it's a nice thing to do, you know.
I remember when I was a student, I used to love it
when someone invited me for a meal, or if I got a free meal.
You know, let's face it, when you're a student,
you don't know where your next meal is coming from.
It's too far for Chinese students to go home for Christmas,
so James wants to cheer them up with an evening of festive fun.
I doubt if any of the students coming tonight will have been
to a proper Christmas dinner in an English person's home.
And hopefully they'll enjoy it,
hopefully they'll feel like they're part of our family for the evening.
And then it will build, and deepen our friendships.
Hopefully it will be a lot of fun.
Turkey's in the oven. We're going to cook that, cool it,
and then slice it before people come.
We've got to do... wrap chipolatas in bacon, pigs in blankets.
30 stuffing balls.
We need to do a playlist of songs that we're going to sing.
It's quite good fun to teach them a few Christmas carols, because that's part of Christmas.
Yeah, that's done.
Christmas crackers for everyone to pull.
This, all the feeding, the parties, the food,
the gathering together over a table,
was really part of what Jesus did,
and that's why I'm interested in doing it as well.
I feel like it connects me, in a sense,
with the early disciples of Jesus.
I've cut out a gold card of a star. A star of Bethlehem.
The idea that I'm going to stick it outside my door, on the light,
and then the international students,
they kind of like follow the star to get there.
A little bit cheesy.
Maybe they won't even notice it, but I think it's a nice little touch.
There we go! I think that looks quite nice!
-Shall we go and see the doctor?
-And make you better?
Layton Acton is on his way
to Alder Hey Hospital for surgery on his adenoids, to help his breathing.
It's a routine operation, but after losing Layton's brother,
Zoe is worried that something could go wrong.
I haven't slept at all. I've been up all night.
Plus, I had Layton in my bed, so I didn't sleep very well at all.
I've been up since about three o'clock this morning,
panicking and worrying.
Dave Williams, the hospital chaplain,
is waiting for them to arrive.
I think this is a huge day for Zoe, as well as Layton,
because she is bound to have that trepidation,
especially with her experience of losing a little fella last year.
It's going to be a huge day, but she's going to be worrying about what's gone on in the past.
She's going to be worrying about Layton,
and she's going to be really
trusting in God today, to get her through this.
I think our role in this situation is just to be here.
It's certainly not to bash her over the head with a Bible.
It's not even to talk about the deep theology, it is just to be there.
You will be absolutely fine, mate. Absolutely fine.
-Don't shake, you'll be fine. You'll be fine.
-I'm shaking, I hate it.
-He's in good hands, darling.
-He is indeed. He's in a very good hospital.
Come on, chicken.
I pray for various things in life, but mainly for Layton,
for his well-being. For his health.
I ask for him to protect and guide Layton when I can't.
When he's in theatre and I can't be there, I ask God to be there for him.
Fire service chaplain, Bill Saunders, has an important
but emotional visit to make.
As chaplain, he gets called to any incident where a life has been lost.
Today, he's going to see the bereaved parents
of 19-year-old Thomas Browne.
He died in a car crash, and Bill was by his side when he passed away.
When I arrived at the scene, I then asked permission to
go into the inner cordon, so that I could be there
as the firefighters and folk were helping
to remove Thomas from the car.
And my observation was that
they did that with the greatest of respect and care.
Thomas's parents, Tom and Carol,
want to talk to Bill about what happened at the scene of the crash.
So, where are you at the moment, the both of you? Where do you think you've got to?
-Just the way you are dealing with things.
-I don't know.
It's up and down all the time.
There's nothing else in the world that can hit you worse than
losing a child, is there? Everyone's just devastated.
-It surprisingly how many people it's hit.
He was just such a well liked boy, wasn't he? Everybody loved him.
The night that this happened, obviously, I was there,
and that was important for you, just to be able to talk about that.
Yeah, because you were with Thomas at the end, you saw him, obviously.
You were one of the last people to see him, weren't you?
And thought of him being there on his own upset me,
and it brought me comfort to know that you are there.
So, for me personally it was important to be there,
it was important to pray for him, to commend him to the Lord,
and to pray for you, and the family.
For Thomas, it was painless and instant.
Tom and Carol have asked Bill to go back
to where their son lost his life.
Yeah, is this the first time you've been back since the accident happened, Carol?
-Yeah, the first time I've been, Bill. I haven't even driven past.
A memorial marks the place where the accident happened.
Do you feel traumatic when you come back?
-Because obviously you were here, weren't you?
-I was here.
Well, obviously every time I go past now,
it's a spot that my eyes are drawn to, obviously.
And I certainly remember the evening.
I just have this vision of Thomas being here,
and it's just a horrible vision that I don't like to think about.
It's all a blur to me now. I came to the scene when it happened.
I can blank it out.
It does feel quite emotional.
It brings back a lot of sad memories, you know?
Well, it's been a bit of an emotional afternoon, hasn't it?
So, shall we had back? Get a cup of tea or something? I'm freezing.
The Chinese students are arriving at James's house
for his evening of festive food and fun.
Hi, everyone. Hi, come in. Come in. Welcome. Welcome to my house.
Oh, hi, Phoebe. Nice to meet you.
Here's the turkey.
A growing number of Chinese students are becoming
interested in Christianity.
For James, this is a perfect way to introduce them
to the finer points of a traditional British Christmas.
Does anyone know what these are called?
And either you LOVE them or you HATE them.
Introducing them to Brussels sprouts, James?
It's an important part of English culture.
How can you do a degree in England and not experience the sprout?
Thank you, God, for today. Thank you for this food.
Thank you for Christmas, and let us have a lovely evening together. Amen.
Everyone, who would like chopsticks?
Who would find it a bit easier with chopsticks?
Phoebe asked for chopsticks.
-Small, little, quite sour berries.
-And it's just a tradition.
-Fantastic. Amazing. Fabulous.
It's really weird, in a sense.
It's really strange to do my Christian ministry,
what God has called me to do,
by having people round here to eat turkey.
Particularly Chinese people. That's strange, isn't it?
But, on the other hand, I feel it's completely normal.
These are the people on my doorstep at university,
and these are the people that I've connected with,
that have come every week, and they're eager to learn more
and to experience part of our Christian culture.
The turkey's gone down well.
The students' next cultural experience is a traditional Christmas party game.
It's pass the parcel with forfeits.
Speak for one minute on the subject. What's that? Rule the what?
-"If I ruled the world."
-If I ruled the world.
If I ruled the world, I would make all the clothes in Topshop free.
Tell us something unusual, unusual, about yourself.
-I may dance a little crazy.
ALL: Dance, dance, dance!
Next time the music stops,
James tells the students about the Christian meaning of Christmas.
Christmas is a holiday not like our other holidays,
because on Christmas we remember that 2,000 years ago,
Jesus Christ was born.
The reason we give gifts and celebrate is because one day,
2,000 years ago, God gave us the greatest gift ever, his son Jesus.
Thank you for listening.
# Seven swans a-swimming,
# Six geese a-laying,
# Five gold rings
# Four calling birds
# Three French hens
# Two turtle doves
# And a partridge in a pear tree. #
Hang on, everyone. Can you hear that? SLEIGH BELLS
What does that sound like?
That sounds like Santa's reindeers on the roof.
-Can you hear?
-I wonder if Santa's coming?
Hello, boys and girls.
Have you been having fun?
I feel like I'm in a vocation, in a calling.
I would do this job if I wasn't paid,
and there is no greater satisfaction and fulfilment in this life
than believing that you're right where you're meant to be.
-Have you been a good boy?
-I've not been that good this year, so...
Maybe I'll pass on you for now.
Very good. Very good. It was lovely to see you all.
Have a wonderful Christmas!
ALL: Thank you.
# Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way... #
Such an amazing night. I really loved it.
I will never forget this night. Very interesting.
I enjoyed the food. The traditional English food.
My first time I've tried them.
I think this is going to be the most unforgettable
memories in my overseas study experience.
It's been a real joy.
It's been such a privilege to see their faces, you know.
The first time they've seen the Christmas tree like that,
the table set up.
The first time they've had that meal, or sang those songs,
and done those games, and had Santa come and visit them. Their faces!
It was such a delight to see, and a joy.
I was so privileged to be part of it.
At Alder Hey Hospital, Zoe Acton is anxiously waiting for her son
Layton to emerge from surgery.
Half an hour now. So, he's got another hour to go.
So, it's a bit scary. Quite nerve wracking.
What's your biggest fear then?
Him dying in there, or complications really. That's what I'm scared of.
She's kind of taking it all on her shoulders, and keeping it to herself, isn't she?
She says, "Well, we'll get through this, and I'll just go and talk to God."
But that is the lovely thing, "I'll just go talk to God."
That's what wasn't happening a couple of weeks ago, you know.
It was, "I'm very angry with God."
Now, she's talking to God, which is wonderful.
You know, she is relying on him, and holding on to him, not just vaguely holding on.
She is saying, "I asked God to get me through this." Which is wonderful.
By the end of the day Layton is back on the ward with Zoe,
Safe and sound.
-So, how did the operation go then, Zoe?
He had very large adenoids.
So, they have definitely come out with his tonsils.
What this will mean is that I can go to sleep all night
in my own bed without you.
Because you will be able to breath a bit easier,
and not dribble or snore.
So, that is a huge relief for Mummy, that you're all better now.
Do you want some juice?
Next time: keeping alive the memories of children
who will never be forgotten.
We're all here for the same reason, every single one of us.
We know we're not on our own.
And the chaplain always praying for an Everton win.
The football has got something to do with the church,
and above all the church and religion
has something to do with football.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Bill Sanders, a chaplain but also a trained firefighter, goes on 999 calls. At Alder Hey Children's Hospital, chaplains support mother Zoe as she anxiously awaits the result of an operation on her son. And university chaplain James Harding introduces overseas students to Christmas traditions, including brussels sprouts.