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Christopher Henley

Chaplain to South Western and Wessex.

Christopher Henley, Railway Mission Chaplain South Western and Wessex.

Railway Mission Chaplains:

Supporting Rail Staff on Life's Journey

In the first of a new blog series, we shine the spotlight on members of our dedicated chaplaincy team and their invaluable work supporting rail staff on life's journey. Members of the team will share their motivations, daily responsibilities and the impact of their work across the rail industry.


Next to feature in our series is Christopher Charles Henley.


Christopher’s area of responsibility covers South Western and Wessex.

What inspired you to become a railway chaplain?


My whole life has been about a journey. About 9 years ago my Spiritual Director felt chaplaincy would be a natural progression at the time.


When someone says, “Thank you, you made a difference, it was good that you were here”. It excites me to meet so many different people working in so many areas of this vast industry. I am driven and l am a great believer in the adage, “It only takes one person to make a difference”, and l am one of those people.


How do you spend a typical day in the role?


Much of my work is dictated by events of the previous day or two. I am, however, on the Board of Executives for the Railway Benevolent Fund which seeks to support those in the greatest financial need. I have built a good rapport with Signalers, BTP, Directors, and Drivers, all of whom contact me for support regularly.

South Western and Wessex Railway Chaplain Chris Henley

How do you tailor your chaplaincy work to the specific needs and challenges faced by railway employees?

Every situation and need is different. There are times that my previous work demonstrates an understanding of their needs but, primarily the vast majority of their specific needs involved listening, signposting being both empathetic and pastoral. Often it's about listening to their story and identifying what is not said.


How does your faith play a role in the support you provide and how do you navigate the diversity of beliefs and backgrounds of the railway workers with whom you interact?


My faith and work in tandem; they support each other. I engage with people of faith and those who claim to have no faith. Offering an independent, impartial, and confidential chaplaincy allows them to be themselves, more comfortable when speaking to someone readily available to listen.


Can you share a memorable experience from your time as a chaplain?


One of the most challenging, demanding but rewarding experiences was being invited by the Ground Commander to support the young BTP Officers working at the top of Grenfell Tower in the days after the fire (I worked in DVI in my previous occupation). Being told to “get on my hands and knees” with the Officers on floor 23 not only a tremendous privilege giving me an insight into what they were experiencing but also enabled me to give far greater support; as l had a greater understanding of their challenges.


What message or advice would you like to share with railway employees and their families who may be reading this blog post?


Take every opportunity to engage with your railway chaplain. As a Christian and an ordained Church of England priest, I would iterate that they are there to support you, not convert you. Railway Mission chaplains come with vast knowledge and are often happy to share their own stories of trauma, mental health, illness and HOPE.


Finally, how can people inside and outside the railway industry support the work of Railway Mission and chaplains like you?


Taking the opportunity to donate through our website but also, many people like to donate when we hand them one of our railway calendars. People can help us by telling their stories of how we have supported and continue to support them; showing the benefits of the railway mission chaplaincy.


Keep an eye out for the next in our railway chaplain blog post series.