Kandersteg Chaplaincy

Last summer Seasonal Chaplain, John Simmons, took a small team to Kandersteg in the Bernese Oberland to be involved in the programme that is on offer at the International Scout Centre and to provide Sunday services at the Swiss Reformed Church in the village. The Scout Centre is visited by some 12,000 Scouts and Guides every summer and the staff there is keen to develop the chaplaincy work. This year John and his team will be in Kandersteg from 15-29 August.

Kandersteg - John SimmonsJohn writes ‘Back in the early summer British newspapers reported that Girlguiding UK had replaced ‘God’ with ‘self’ in their Promise, and that Scouting UK was looking to formulate an alternative Promise for atheist boys. The International Scouting Centre in Kandersteg (KISC), however, conscious of its links to its Christian founder, Baden-Powell, in its ninetieth anniversary year, welcomed the services of the Christian chaplains, again under the auspices of ICS.

Kandersteg - International Scouting Centre (KISC)

This year three chaplains were provided, covering a total of six weeks, a fifty per cent increase on last year; the senior staff (there are about eighty staff there over the summer) were without exception delighted to see us and sought to involve us in the programme they offer to over twelve thousand Scouts and Guides who stay there each year.

I was the final chaplain of the season at Kandersteg and I had some interesting conversations with staff about how we might develop the chaplaincy work next summer. I was also privileged to meet Wayne Bulpitt, UK Chief Commissioner for Scouts, on his first visit to the World Scout Centre. He confessed to me that he was delighted to discover there was a Christian chaplain from the UK serving the Centre and we talked at length about his work in Scouting and about our work as chaplains to the forty or so nationalities who make up the Centre each summer. I took a small team to the Bernese Oberland, with plans to take six next year for the final two weeks of the season.

Kandersteg - Some of the 80 strong KISC staff at their 8am daily briefingWe got involved on a daily basis with activities at the Centre, joining in the Light Trail, taking part in the international barbecue, the flag-breaking ceremony and in the leaders’ get-togethers, sharing the gospel at a ‘Scouts Own’ in the outdoor chapel, walking the hills with the Scouts, eating with them and their leaders, attending the daily staff briefing—and dozens of individual conversations.

Sunday morning means a service in the ‘White Church’ in the centre of the village. It is a Swiss Reformed church and we were pleased this year to discover that they have now rebuilt their church centre and made it available for us to use however we wished. Our team served food and drink there after our Sunday services and most folk stayed to chat and pick up evangelistic literature. I am sure we can make even more use of this year for the whole summer.

It was also great this year to have more contact with local Christians: with a fellowship which meets down the valley at Frutigen and prays for our work each year, and with a handful of Christian staff at the Centre too. We hope to develop these links next year.

IMG_1010The fortnight was sprinkled with chance conversations: chaplaincy is about hanging around and taking gospel opportunities when they present themselves. So, I had a good talk with a member of staff from overseas who will be studying at Manchester this year, very close to my home. I found myself looking at John 3 on my iPhone in the original language with someone from Greece. I had a fascinating conversation with a leader who was part of the 530-strong group from Greater London; he promised to join a Christianity Explored group in his local church on his return. One of our team was asked by a Scout to explain the ‘Four Points’ sweatshirt she was wearing.

Kandersteg - John Simmons taking a Scouts Own at the outdoor chapel

And there were many more opportunities. Please pray that next year, if possible, there will be four chaplains over eight weeks; also that we will manage to offer a Sunday service at the Scout Centre as well as at the church. Pray for more involvement in planning ‘spiritual’ activities in the Scout Centre’s summer programme. Thank God that fifty English Bibles have been donated for our use, and that a local Christian has offered her apartment for the chaplaincy to use. Pray that we will work better with local believers and make even greater use of the Swiss church’s facilities. Thank God for an open door for the gospel at the International Scouting Centre. Pray that we may use it well and for many to hear the gospel in Kandersteg next year.’

<For information> on who the chaplains will be in Kandersteg this coming summer.

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