Salvation Army delivers cheerful check-in to Christmas flyers with airport carol services

published on 25 Nov 2016

The Salvation Army is set to bring a little joy to UK airports this Christmas. During the season often synonymous with travel chaos, the church and charity will be spreading Christmas cheer to weary travellers as its airport chaplains organise carols and festive live music for passengers and airport staff.   Christmas carolling will take place at Stansted, Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow throughout December.   

The Salvation Army’s Stansted airport chaplain, Major Sidney Pinches said: “I’ve been at Stansted for three years now and Christmas is such a special time. So many people travel hundreds and thousands of miles to be with loved ones.   

“However airports can be very stressful places at Christmas – not only is it often the busiest time of year to travel but anything like flight delays, disruptive weather or missing luggage can contribute to a truly miserable travel experience. If we’re able to spread a little Christmas cheer as passengers and airport staff pass by then I’m happy with that.”  

Major Pinches introduced the Christmas carol service to Stansted two years ago and it’s fast becoming a tradition. On 19 December at noon – one of the busiest travel days of the year – the Stansted airport chaplaincy team will deliver a carol service and readings while a traditional Salvation Army band plays. Sidney’s son-in-law Jonathan Andrew Hume will be among the singers; he made his name on the West End stage as Simba in the highly acclaimed production of the Lion King.  

Sidney Pinches is just one of many Salvation Army airport chaplains based at airports across the country. They are responsible for offering support for passengers and airport staff responding to any call for assistance, whether that’s from an individual or whether it’s to the demands of a major incident. The mission of the chaplaincy team is to be there for anyone who needs its service, irrespective of denomination, faith or creed.  

Last Christmas at Stansted airport Major Pinches helped welcome 80 refugee families arriving from war-torn areas in the Middle East, offering pastoral support and a reassuring presence as the families were escorted through border control and then on to refuges.   

This year Sidney will even be working on Christmas Day. He said: “My role here is to be present, to be available and to listen to people. There are 17.5 million passengers a year coming and going from the airport, not to mention the 10,000 airport staff; it can be chaotic and sometimes all someone needs is a friendly face.   “Our team has been there to support passengers and airport staff through accidents and incidents. We facilitate for every faith here at Stansted. No two days are the same. Every time I turn up to a shift I face the unknown – it’s a real joy to be a chaplain here.”  

At Gatwick the airport chaplains will have a carol service at noon on 15 December in the North Terminal Chapel and at noon on 22 December in the South Terminal Chapel.   At Birmingham International airport the chaplains will host a carol service on 15 December at 1pm by the piano in the main area where people arrive from the monorail.    In Manchester airport the Salvation Army chaplain is working with local local schools to organise carolling at each terminal in the run up to Christmas.  

At Glasgow airport the Govan Salvation Army Songsters will perform a carol service on 3 December at 1pm, 17 December at 1pm and on 24 December at noon in the departure area.   A number of carol services will take place at Heathrow airport, including:

5 December, 11.30am – T5 between zone B and C

5 December, 12pm – Waterside opposite Village Café

6 December, 8.30am – T2 departures at check-in zone C

8 December, 8.30am – T4 departures by Café Rouge

9 December, 8.30am – T2 departures at check-in zone C

12 December, 11.30am – T3 opposite departures

12 December, 5.30pm – T5 between zone B and C

13 December, 11.30am – Compass Centre

15 December, 8.30am – T2 departures at check-in zone C 20 December, 12pm – Waterside opposite Village Cafe