One man’s journey from police to paramedic, train driver to chaplain
In 1881 Railway Mission was founded to provide pastoral care and support for railway staff, one hundred and forty years later the charity is still supporting the railway community through a dedicated team of railway chaplains. From the North of Scotland to the tip of Cornwall, from the Welsh coast to the Humber, chaplains provide a valuable, proactive support network for the railway industry.
During the Covid-19 Lockdown last year, Andrew Buchanan joined the Railway Mission team as the chaplain for the South West of England. Andrew says: ‘It is a privilege to have been called to take up the role as a Railway Missions representative and chaplain for the railway industry and British Transport Police for the South West of England.’
Andrew has found a recurring theme prominent in many of his discussions with railway staff and senior leadership teams, irrespective of the company or organisation, there is a real focus in the railway community on Health and Well-Being. Companies of all sizes have recognised the need to support the mental health of industry colleagues. Regardless of the role colleagues may perform, everyone deserves to be cared for and listened to when it comes to their mental well-being.
All of the chaplaincy team brings a wealth of ‘life lived experience’ to the role of Railway Mission chaplain. But Andrew brings something of a unique perspective due to his past work experience as a former Police Officer and Scenes of Crime Officer, a Paramedic and latterly, as a Train Driver on the West Coast mainline.
Using his past work experiences, Andrew hopes to build upon established links and develop new and trusted relationships with railway staff; believing that having been involved in a fatality as a train driver, as well as body retrieval and identification with the police and the lifesaving work as a paramedic, will help him to come alongside those who may want to talk and share their own experiences.
The Railway Mission objectives over the years have not changed as we continue to provide professional, independent, impartial, confidential short term pastoral care and support that complements the chain of care provided by the rail industry.
Railway Mission is actively involved in a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary approach to tackling the very real issues that impact the mental health of those in the railway industry and the members of the public affected by railway operations. Andrew describes chaplaincy as, ‘Christianity with its sleeves rolled up’, adding: ‘I can’t expect to leave footprints if I haven’t taken the opportunity to reach out to all, irrespective as to whether a person is active or retired.’
Railway Mission is actively working for the benefit of the wider railway community and will continue to enhance what has already been established, but where there are still opportunities to be explored the chaplaincy team will continue to reach out and be available in meeting needs that can only be effectively met by working through these issues as part of a multi-disciplinary approach.
The railway industry faces an uncertain future. Yes, trains will still run, the investment will happen, but the shape and management of the industry is still not fully settled. There is uncertainty around passenger numbers, the security of some jobs, or indeed the governance of the industry. But what is certain is that as long as there are Railway Mission chaplains like Andrew Buchanan, there will be support for railway staff and members of the public affected by railway operations.
To find out about the Railway Mission chaplaincy, or to locate your local chaplain visit railwaymission.org