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John and Caroline Kinchin-Smit

Swiss chaplaincy visit for Gorleston minister

Rev John Kinchin-Smith, Assistant Minister at St Andrews Gorleston, has recently returned from serving a four-week chaplaincy in June at the English Church in Zermatt in the Swiss Alps. He gives an account of his visit.

Zermatt church 750ATZermatt is best known as a ski resort, but attracts many thousands of summer visitors for the breath-taking scenery, hiking, and mountaineering. The English Church, St Peter’s, pictured right, was built in 1869 for the many British visitors who came to Zermatt at that time. Although technically Church of England, the English Church is for any who are looking for a church where English is spoken.
“The ministry at the English Church is operated by the Intercontinental Church Society (ICS), founded in 1823 as a Mission Agency in English for everyone. ICS appoints full-time chaplains across Europe, North Africa, and South America and volunteer seasonal chaplains to minister to tourists, resort workers and travellers in Italy, Switzerland, and Greece.
"Caroline and I were there for a month, and our first Sunday service attracted people from 12 different nationalities including from Korea, Hong Kong, Spain, and the USA.
"Zermatt lies at the head of a valley surrounded by twenty-nine peaks of over 4000 metres (14,000 feet). Its most famous mountain is the Matterhorn, pictured below, first ascended in 1865 by a British team led by Edward Whymper. The ascent was followed by disaster when, on the descent, four of the team of seven fell and were killed. One of those killed was the Rev Charles Hudson who is buried beneath the altar in the English Church!
Matterhorn 750AT"Mountaineering was pioneered by the British in the 19th century and this historic connection brings many visitors to the English Church as tourists. This offers a real opportunity for mission and pastoral care. An important part of the chaplain’s ministry is to greet and speak with these many visitors from across the world. In June these included a young Christian pastor from Hong Kong, a group of Taiwanese women – only one of whom was a Christian, and a lonely young woman from Italy with her 9-month old daughter. Her boyfriend is working as a chef in one of the hotels and she is on her own during the day. She was very grateful to receive prayer.
"Another important part of the seasonal chaplaincy, besides two church services on Sundays, is visiting the hotels. There are more than 130 hotels and 400 hostels and apartment blocks in Zermatt. We deliver English Church posters and leaflets to every hotel and are always warmly received. On one occasion we had an opportunity to offer prayer to a hotel owner agonizing over her retirement. Another time we were able to offer comfort to a young woman from Hong Kong, grieving over the political situation in that country.
"One never knows what opportunities will arise to minister the love of God. The calling seems to be always to be prepared and available, with one’s ministry rooted in prayer. It is often the case that people on holiday have the space and opportunity to reflect of the most important things of life. Some come on holiday with burdens of care or grief. The scenery is certainly reflective of God's awesome beauty and greatness.
"This was the third time we have served in Zermatt. It is a huge privilege to work for the Lord in such a beautiful place, meeting people from twenty-five different countries, and re-establishing contact with the British residents in Zermatt who – although they do not attend church – may one day need it and be glad that it is there. There have been occasions when the English chaplain has been called out following an emergency or disaster. Every year people are killed on the mountains.
“Although our time there was rewarding, the ministry was not without its difficulties! We were so grateful for the prayer-support we received from St Andrew’s, our sending church.”

If anyone would like to hear more about this ministry, John and Caroline will be giving an illustrated presentation in the Chapter House at St Andrew’s Church in Gorleston at 2.30pm on Thursday August 1.
The pictures are courtesy of John Kinchin-Smith.
This article first appeared at  https://www.networkyarmouth.co.uk/


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