Manchester chaplains

Our story

Since 1980 the Chaplaincy Manchester Airport has provided pastoral and spiritual care and guidance to Manchester Airport’s customers and staff, whatever their faith tradition. Here’s how it all began …

Manchester International Airport serves 4 million passengers p.a. and has 4,000 staff

The Revd Arthur Grimshaw, a local Baptist minister and supported by the Baptist Union Home Mission, begins work as Manchester Airport’s first chaplain. His office is the boot of his car in the staff car park.  Arthur, noted for his ‘quiet example, wisdom and leadership’ died in 2009 leaving a wonderful legacy.

Manchester International Airport serves 8 million passengers 

A fire on board British Airtours Flight 28M on take-off at Manchester on August 22 1985 causes the death of 55 passengers and crew. Described as “a defining moment in the history of civil aviation” , this incident tests the chaplaincy’s response in serving the needs of survivors, relatives and colleagues. This was a global catalyst towards ‘people-centred’ emergency planning and procedures.

Our first Prayer Room opens in Terminal 3.

The distinctive feature of the room is Margaret Traherne’s 1963 coloured block glass memorial screen commemorating the former wartime Parachute Training School at RAF Ringway.

(Renamed) Manchester Airport serves 10.5 million passengers 

(Renamed) Manchester Airport serves 10.5 million passengers 

Revd Mike Vincer was appointed Manchester Airport’s second Chaplain, working alongside his predecessor for some weeks until Arthur’s retirement in December 1992. Mike continued and developed Arthur’s work. His ready smile and obvious integrity helped to create relationships of trust in which confidences could be shared.

Manchester Airport serves 14.7 million passengers 

As a result of joint work by the Chaplaincy and the Transport and General Workers’ Union, the Wayfarer Credit Union was established to assist airport workers.

MAplc provides Prayer Room to serve Terminal 2 at the heart of the retail and restaurant area of the terminal. The artist Karen Vincent was commissioned to produce an artwork as a focal point for the room using the pâte de verre technique which involves crushing and sieving glass.

The Chaplaincy becomes a Company (No 3664008) limited by guarantee with 17 Board members.

The Chaplaincy is registered as a Charity (No 1074781)

Jenny Wright, a URC member, joins the Chaplaincy as its first Pastoral Coordinator

Manchester Airport serves 18.5 million passengers 

Salvation Army Captain Ian Field is appointed as a second full-time Chaplain.
The team, now of three, enables the Chaplaincy to offer a more comprehensive service.

Three Associate (volunteer) chaplains, Revd Tony Powell – pastor of Bethany Church in Gatley, Moulana Mohammed Faruk Ali – an Imam from Bolton, and Revd Kennedy Bedford – an AME pastor in Wythenshawe are appointed to serve specific areas of the Airport. 

The chaplaincy is, for the first time, both ecumenical and multi-faith.

Role of Senior Chaplain transitioned from Mike Vincer to Kevin Ball
The IACAC Conference took place in Manchester
Manchester Airport serves 22.4 million passengers 

The Chaplaincy signs Formal Agreements to work with:

  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the repatriation of British Citizens into the UK through Manchester. 
  • with the Ministry of Defence in repatriation of service personnel and families through Manchester on compassionate grounds.
  • with the UK Border Agency (to serve as chaplains to the Short-term Immigration Detention Centre.

The Airport Care Team is created, under the control of The Chaplaincy in partnership with the airport’s recently appointed Emergency Planning Manager. 20 airport volunteers now assist with pastoral and humanitarian care at the airport, for day.

A new chaplaincy centre, with Prayer Room adjacent to an office for four staff, a kitchen, toilet and quiet room for counselling or conversation was planned and created to the rear of the terminal in the old Terminal Control Offices is formally opened. 

This brings the total number of terminal prayer rooms to four.

An interfaith act of remembrance marks the 25th Anniversary of the British Airtours disaster. A new plaque is unveiled in the Stanley Forest Memorial Garden. For the first time, the pilot, Captain Peter Terrington, is able to attend this anniversary service, something he and his wife continue every year (flying up from their home near London) until his death in January 2016.

The team continues to grow. The team now consists of three paid staff and six volunteer chaplains.

Manchester Airport serves 17.7 million passengers (following Credit Crunch of 2008)

Revd George Lane appointed as Co-ordinating Chaplain 

The chaplaincy appoints two female chaplains; Revd Jean Hurlston our first female ordained chaplain, and Assia Shah, our first female Muslim chaplain, who, with Moulana Faruk Ali, are our first employed Muslim chaplains. CJ Singh Khalsa, an Airfield Security Officer is our first Sikh chaplain, Joseph Sandler arrives to supplement the Jewish chaplaincy provision and Revd Bill Raines volunteers one day a week – all to begin in January 2015. The size of the chaplaincy team increases to fifteen (five paid and ten volunteers).

Revd George Lane elected President of the International Association of Civil Aviation Chaplains, at their conference in New York.

Manchester Airport serves 23 million passengers 

Manchester Airport serves 29.4 million passengers 

Pargash Singh, an engineer at the airport succeeds CJ Singh as volunteer Sikh chaplain, and Alan Benstock from the Jewish faith both join the chaplaincy team as volunteers – a matter of weeks before the Covid-19 hits the UK.

Covid-19 Pandemic First Lockdown. With the exception of Revd George Lane, all chaplaincy employees are furloughed, and all chaplaincy volunteers stood-down.

Manchester Airport passenger numbers reduce to 7 million (due to the Covid pandemic)

Continued uncertainty and ongoing consequences of the global pandemic lead the board to commence a redundancy consultation and 3 personnel leave the chaplaincy. 

Revd George Lane, re-designated as Lead Chaplain, and begins the process of re-building the chaplaincy team.

After a recruitment process that commenced in early 2020, Deacon Chris Wells, Revd Chris Goswami (the first Baptist since Arthur), Saima Alvi, Jo Lowe, Shamim Pourmehdi, Nick Stirling all join the team.
Zeina-el- Debs joins the team. 

Shurma Chowdhury is recruited as a part-time employed Muslim chaplain.

All COVID-19 legal restrictions end in England in 2022. Manchester Airport sees 30 years’ growth in 3 months as passenger numbers rise from 7 million to 23.4 million by the year-end

After a process of recruitment over summer 2022, Revd David Twomey begins as Deputy Lead Chaplain.

Debbie Sawyer is licenced as a pastoral chaplain by the Church in Wales and is appointed as a chaplaincy volunteer (2 days pw).

Revd Adam Woodhouse (who undertook a chaplaincy placement earlier in 2023) is appointed the first URC volunteer chaplain for one day pw. 

Moulana Faruk Ali celebrates 20 years as a chaplain at Manchester Airport.

Today the chaplaincy has grown to 18 chaplains, and works in ever-closer partnership with the two hundred plus different companies based at Manchester Airport. 

A new 1.4 Billion terminal has opened, and the airport’s Transformation Team is working closely with chaplains to ensure that in the coming months the airport will have brand new landside and airside chaplaincy facilities that will enable us to serve up to a projected 50 million passengers and the ever-growing number of airport colleagues.

The Chaplaincy is a registered charity governed by a Board of Trustees