Amid the crowds and chaos of the holiday travel season, you expect several mainstays at busy airports: security checkpoints with belts and shoes and smartphones tumbling into plastic bins; tiny shops in the terminal offering mementos, magazines, and pricey snacks; restaurant smells clashing together on the concourses. International jetports have a unique culture, after all.
But you might not expect a sprinkle of faith in there.
AP airlines writer Scott Mayerowitz uncovered the somewhat underground culture of airport chaplains just in time for Thanksgiving:
The job is unlike other church assignments. There isn't a permanent congregation. No baptisms, weddings or funerals. Instead, airport chaplains preach to a crowd that is transient by nature.
Trust must be earned quickly. There's little time for small talk. Everybody is rushing to catch a flight.
“You only get one chance to impress them; one chance to help them,” says Bishop D.D. Hayes, a non-denominational pastor at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. “Many times, we touch lives we never see again.”
There are daily or weekly services but most ministering occurs elsewhere.
Ministry to air travelers is nothing new, as the first chapel landed in Boston’s Logan International Airport in 1954. That’s because, as The Blaze reports, the need for such help is as timeless as Jesus' message to take the gospel to the world:
“People are a little bit uptight already. It’s a great environment for ministry,” added the Rev. Hutz Hertzberg, a Christian chaplain who works in Chicago. “In the 21st century, we need to bring the ministry to where the people are instead of waiting for them to come to our churches.”
Considering the wide variety of reasons that people travel, it’s no surprise that faith leaders find themselves tending to a diversity of needs. From sending people off to war to praying for family members who are traveling to the funeral of deceased loved ones, these pastoral actions are divergent.
So, if you’re caught in the maddening crowd of Thanksgiving and Christmas travel, keep your eyes open for a friendly touch point of faith. With that seven-hour layover and snow delay, you just might need a chaplain, too.