Our new Club Chaplain Chris Stuttard explains more about the role he will be undertaking at Hartlepool United.
The Club is delighted to confirm the appointment of Chris Stuttard as our Club Chaplain.
It’s a role that we have been looking to fill for some time so we’re very pleased that Chris will now be part of our set-up at The Northern Gas and Power Stadium.
By way of an introduction, Chris has penned this column to explain what he will be doing at the Club and how he can be of assistance to everyone connected with Hartlepool United.
I have recently taken on the role as the new Club Chaplain here at Hartlepool United. Many of you are probably asking what actually is a Chaplain? What does a Chaplain do?
Well, I am here for all aspects of the Club: players of all ages, staff and supporters. I am here if you need a confidential, non-judgemental person to talk to. I am not only here for Christians, I’m here for people of all faiths and people of no faith, to discuss all manner of things. I am happy to talk about my Christian faith if and when people ask, but I won’t push it on anyone. I will be walking around on match days and will try to be as visible as possible.
On Monday, I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with over 100 Sports Chaplains from around the globe (Germany, USA, Australia, and the UK to name but a few) and from different sports (Football, Rugby Union & League, Athletics, Tennis, Horse Racing and Aussie Rules Football among others).
This annual conference in the Midlands is there for us to be inspired, to remind us of why we do what we do, to get together and share experiences – good and bad - that help us to learn from one another, swapping news of players or staff moving between clubs, and connecting with newly-appointed Chaplains.
As an organisation, Sports Chaplaincy has 5 core values:
Being available for people is key to the success or otherwise of the role of a Chaplain. If someone can’t get hold of the Chaplain, never sees him or her, and doesn’t even know what they look like – the Chaplain is as much use as a chocolate teapot! Much of what we do is hang around (we often get likened to Lemon’s as that is so often how we can feel!), making ourselves available – whether that be at the training ground, the Stadium or in the Offices.
We seek to be the best we can be; to be as resourced as we can be; to give the clubs our very best. We don’t want to settle for second best, or the “that’ll do” culture that can so easily pervade the Church. That’s why we hold induction days for new Chaplains; regional days to get together, to learn from one another and other professional bodies, and why the annual conference is a significant part of our year.
Without relationships with people, the Chaplain has nowhere to go. It is the crucial element of what we offer – a ‘no strings attached’ friendship. All too often there are hidden agendas within the sporting world, which in turn breeds a lack of trust and respect for others. As Chaplains we seek to be there for all – not dependent on whether they turn up at Church on Sunday or not! I still have the privilege of keeping in touch with ex-players, and sometimes I’m able to support them even though they have long left the Club.
What the Chaplain is told goes no further, with one exception – when there is a legal requirement to disclose information. Over the years, that has ended with me in some difficult positions with two sides both talking to me about the other! But that is fine and I can handle this and deal with that element of my work. You can be sure that so long as I do not need to disclose the information I have been passed, what you tell me will stay between you and me.
This last value reminds us that we are only ever guests at a club. It is very possible for a Chaplain’s role to change overnight with a new owner or new management - and sadly there are a number of cases where this has happened. We are not involved in our clubs to seek the glory, to be seen in all the right places; it is about being humble and simply serving the club and those associated with it.
As you can see, the acronym for these values is PERCH – don’t ask! But these five values remind us as Chaplains of why and how we should be serving our clubs.
Let me remind you that I am here for you all – young or old, faith or no-faith, player, staff or fan.