STAUNTON, Va. (AP) — A growing workplace ministry is providing spiritual support to workers at factories, hospitals, and police and fire stations.
Industrial and Commercial Ministries (ICM) trains hundreds of lay and professional ministers who spend their days traveling to corporations and listening to employees’ needs.
For Paul Brown, the ministries has been a calling.
During one of his weekly conversations with his brother, a minister in Northern Virginia, he found out about the ministry that touches workers and helps brighten their day. Soon he contacted ICM and, after training, began work as a chaplain at Staunton Steam Laundry, a family-owned business.
“I keep a book of requests,” said Mr. Brown, a member of Ridgeview Baptist Church. “I put their prayer requests in the book. Then I bring it to my church.”
The workers are free and open to talk, he said. And everything is confidential.
“If they have a need, they usually will express it,” Mr. Brown said.
That’s what Don Mayer, operations manager at Staunton Steam Laundry, did during Mr. Brown’s weekly visit to his plant recently. Mr. Mayer’s father had just had an operation and said it was a struggle.
Mr. Mayer thanked Mr. Brown for putting his dad on Mr. Brown’s church prayer list. He told the chaplain his worries and about his father’s recovery.
Angie Simmons, who also works at the plant, smiled when Mr. Brown came by.
“Paul has been a godsend,” she said. “He’s someone to talk to.”
Bringing a smile, a listening ear and a caring heart is what Mr. Brown and other ICM chaplains work for. They go to hospitals, visit homes and get calls during times of crisis.
ICM ministries was started in 1972 in Newport News, Va. Executive Director Tom Murphy has worked out of the organization’s national office in Harrisonburg, Va., for a little more than four years.
“We’re constantly working on new locations,” said Mr. Murphy, who has helped with the ministry for 35 years. “We’re doing seminar training that prepares them to be a chaplain.”
An ordained Methodist minister, his specialty is with police departments. He’s been reaching out to members of the Harrisonburg police force for several years.
The industries that use ICM chaplains understand the give-and-take nature of the ministry.
“They know that we care enough about [employees] to let the chaplain come and speak. They trust him,” said Kelly Singleton, human resource manager at the laundry. “A happy employee is a productive employee.”
Mr. Brown said that his weekly chats to workers pay bigger dividends than the time the company loses. He said, “We’re not there to convert or evangelize; we’re there to listen.”