Jean and Kelvin Woolmer were the first chaplains flying out to Corfu this year. Kelvin writes: 'I had done seasonal chaplaincy in France for many years and had seen lives changed and maintained contact with people we had met in the chaplaincy role, so we were keen to ‘give Corfu a go’ and see what we could do for God and take ICS chaplaincy to another place'.

We flew out on 17 July 2018 to cover the first two weeks of an eight-week chaplaincy period. Local Anglican priest Revd Jules introduced me to Miltiades the Minister of the Evangelical Greek church who ran the local community centre called The Lighthouse. MIltiades was very open to the work we had gone out to do and it had been arranged that the chaplains would spend time in the Lighthouse. I spent some hours in there talking with the ex-pats who attended on Friday to play table tennis.

Jean and I had offered to speak at separate Men’s and Women’s breakfasts whereby the local church members could attend and bring non-church friends along. On our second Saturday of the chaplaincy, at 9am we both went off to our respective venues. Jean spoke about being a published author aka Jean Fullerton and how her faith is a strong part of her life and work. My talk was entitled ‘From Nicker to Vicar’, as I used to be a police officer, and amongst the dozen men who attended there were almost half who had no church background and asked ‘many questions’ at the end.

Unfortunately, the ICS information leaflets sent to Corfu hadn’t arrived by the time we got there. So being a bit bereft of publicity materials, I donned my clerical shirt and collar and went and did what I’ve done in all the chaplaincy roles I’ve been engaged in, ‘I mooched round the shops and cafes and bars’ being a ‘visible presence for Christ’. The good ol’ clerical garb does open doors and people were happy to talk to this foreign priest, if only to pass the time of day. I also got some strange looks, after all what sane person walks around in temperatures of 35C wearing a black shirt?

It became apparent very quickly that the local Greek population are all working three jobs to make money during the summer, which will carry them over the winter. They didn’t have time for long conversations. The tourists were from several different countries and whilst I can say hello in Italian and Greek, I think it’s probably wise for next year to have some Russian and German as well.

We attended Holy Trinity Corfu for the Sunday services and were warmly welcomed by the congregation and made many new friends. Many invited us for tea and meals and they were really excited about the support that ICS was giving them in trying to reach new people. It became very apparent that in future years the congregation could ‘pave the way’ for the ICS chaplains by placing A4 posters in the shops and bars in the locality of Gouvia and Messonghi.

Being the first ICS chaplains to Corfu for this new summer chaplaincy was hard. We didn’t know the ‘lay of the land’ in the same way we did in other ICS chaplaincies in France and Switzerland. I had to be much more prepared to be rebuffed or simply find that the locals didn’t have time for this foreign chaplain. We pray that we did open some doors for future ministry here.

This first year was always going be a learning process and each year subsequently that ICS returns to support the Holy Trinity Church of Corfu (HTC), its vicar Revd Jules and its lovely eclectic congregation, this summer chaplaincy will build on the year before, and in no time I’m sure, ICS and HTC will both grow in working together to share the love of Christ and reach new people.

More information on the chaplains and service times can be found here.