Salvation Army airport chaplain 'honoured' to speak at Holyrood

published on 8 Mar 2018

A Salvation Army chaplain at Glasgow Airport has spoken of his honour at addressing the Scottish Parliament this week.

Commissioner Keith Banks was invited to give the weekly Time for Reflection to MSPS in recognition of the church and charity's work at the airport.

Commissioner Keith said he was delighted to receive the invitation to speak at Holyrood and considered it a “great honour and privilege”.

Addressing MSPs in the main chamber at Holyrood on Tuesday, the 75-year-old said: "After nearly nine years in my role as chaplain at Glasgow, one thing I have realised is that I need to be human at all times. Natural, unstuffy, approachable, human. Not pious, not pompous, not holier than thou. But what’s going on with Celtic and Rangers, and Hibs and Hearts. That kind of thing.

“If it’s true that the whole of human life is found in an airport, and it is, then it follows that all human emotions are reflected there too. Joy, sorrow, disappointment, anger, aspirations.

“Experience has shown me that training and academic attainment, while incredibly helpful, are not paramount. What matters most is that I’m seen as a flesh and blood human being, as is much as humanly possible. People talk to me about all things human. The pain of grief following the loss of a loved one or work colleague, an addiction they are struggling with, concern about the workplace, redundancy, fear for their mother’s health and anxiety about a child’s education, a gender or orientation issue. All very human.

“People share their happiness, their jokes, their frustrations. They ask questions about God, about worrying things in the news, of the relevance of faith in the 21st century, and about things that are said in this chamber. All very human.

“And there are passengers who cannot understand why their plane is delayed, why their luggage has gone missing and why they can’t find the toilets. All very human.

“What really mattered when I escorted a grieving 85-year-old woman off a plane, she having seen her husband pass away in mid-flight, was a caring human presence. A human being, a human arm. As a Christian minister I do my best as an ordinary human guy to follow Christ who was truly and properly divine. But he was truly a proper human too. My task is to reflect the divine nature of His love and his humanity without discrimination, which of course is the way he did it.

“I guess that is how it should be for all of us to interact with people. Whether we ourselves are people of faith or not, we should never be so lost in the clouds that our feet lose contact with the floor. Because that’s what people are. And people need chaplains and politicians to be real people themselves, as much as is humanly possible. So may it be.”  

During Commissioner Keith's life as a Salvation Army officer, he has worked as the Officer Commanding for the church and charity in Papa New Guinea and Chief Secretary in Japan, as well as being the International Secretary for Personnel at the organisation’s International Headquarters in London.

Despite being officially retired as an officer, Commissioner Keith continues to remain active and has been the chaplain at Glasgow Airport since 2009. He leads the Salvation Army’s chaplaincy team at the airport and works alongside his assistants Captain Stephen Baker and Jim McDonald, a volunteer from Govan Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army chaplaincy team are available to respond to any call for assistance, from an individual to the demands of a major incident, offering assistance to distressed passengers and supporting family members. The mission of the chaplaincy team is to be there for anyone who needs its service, irrespective of denomination, faith or creed.

Watch Keith's address on the Scottish Parliament site.