Salvation Army chaplain retires from London Stansted Airport

published on 8 Feb 2024

The Salvation Army chaplain at London Stansted Airport said it has been a privilege to serve staff and passengers over the past decade.

Major Sidney Pinches stepped down from the role at the end of last month and a special event was held at the airport to celebrate his service.

Sidney said he has felt drawn to workplace chaplaincy throughout his ministry, beginning in 1980 when he was chaplain at a steel finishing company in Sheffield, and described his time at Stansted as ‘the icing on the cake’.

Sidney is the longest-serving chaplain at Stansted and has been supporting airport employees and many of the 80,000 passengers who use it each day since 2013.

Sidney Pinches
A special event was held at Stansted Airport to celebrate Sidney's service

He explained: “My role was to help, guide and support staff and passengers. I’ve conducted funerals and weddings for staff and had to deal with a range of requests including people who would like their ashes scattered on the runway – that’s something we can’t do although I did find an alternative location.”

Sidney shared some memories of his time as chaplain.

He said: “There was a young couple who worked as airport security staff who had twin baby boys who they used to hand over in the car park when one of them finished their shift. When one of the twins became seriously ill and was admitted to hospital, I offered pastoral care. They are now healthy nine year olds.”

Sidney was also involved in welcoming the first flights carrying Syrian refugees who arrived in this country just before Christmas 2015.

Sidney Pinches and Howard Russell
Major Howard Russell, Salvation Army leader in the East of England, also presented Sidney with a certificate of appreciation

He said: “It was a privilege to meet these families. I escorted them through border control to a reception area where they met local authority representives. It was overwhelming to see airport staff reduced to tears.”

In 2020, Sidney developed a partnership between the Airport Chaplaincy and the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office to meet deportees and vulnerable adults arriving back in the UK.The chaplaincy have provided practical and pastoral support to more than 200 arrivals and linking several people with Salvation Army churches.

He said: “I made some very special friends and will certainly be keeping in touch. Having the opportunity to serve as one of the airport's chaplains has been a true privilege. Each day is different, and every time I turn up for a shift, I face the unknown. I've loved being a chaplain and will miss it terribly."

The Salvation Army will still have a chaplain at Stansted Airport, with Major Alan Frederiksen taking up the reins. 

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