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22 November 2011

Hayley Matthews - MediaCityUK Chaplain

Hayley Matthews - MediaCityUK Chaplain

Hayley Matthews is a chaplain to MediaCityUK and coordinator of The Anchor project, the chaplaincy in MediaCityUK. Hayley works with media and the local community, is part of Salford University’s chaplaincy team and also works with local faith groups.  She is passionate about communicating the gospel to a post-modern, secular, multifarious technological world using the tools and language that people understand.

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

A dancer, writer or nun. When I watched dancers I sensed the freedom, still do. As a child I wrote a novel, songs, and poetry. Even though I didn't come from a Christian home I had faith from a young age. I attended a school that had assemblies and celebrated Christian festivals. I read the Bible as if it was the most important thing in the world and had such a sense of God's presence in the church. I would sing my heart out and say to my classmates: "Didn't you feel the wind?" Those hymns were my vows to God. He was real for me.

Because women couldn't become priests at the time, I presumed I would be a nun. That seems ironic now, especially as I've had a very lively, unenclosed life since!

How did you end up in media chaplaincy?

I worked in ICT for many years, arts projects, web design as well as becoming a semi-residential youth worker and working in a safe house. I trained people in design and became immersed from an educational perspective in communication, learning and technology in ways that are culturally dominant. I knew this is what the church needs: to tell its stories in people's language.

I trained at Ridley in Cambridge. To complete a Masters in Pastoral Theology I had placements as a hospital chaplain, in a South African HIV-Aids hospice for children and in Sidney Sussex College. All placements helped me to realise that I am good at talking to people on the edge of church or outside of it as a kind of translator.

When I finished my curacy, I saw the MediaCityUK job advertised but thought they'd want an experienced hack. It is only due to the insistence of friends that I sent in my application a day before the closing date.

What is the role of a chaplain?

Firstly, to be pastorally available, a listening ear. We spend most of our time at work. Working patterns mean that we can't always be at our place of worship, especially as media is a 24-7 industry.

Secondly, a faith presence. MediaCityUK is an actual city, made up of local community, business, university, living and recreational spaces. Spirituality is part of any community. Our interfaith perspective is important as we model good working relationships and celebrate our faiths rather than merely tolerate difference.

Thirdly, communicating our faith. The gospel is intrinsically a story and part of the narrative is drawing people into it, to witness to the divine, and help people to engage with it.

And finally, community development, koinonia. The early church was about drawing people together in community of faith, including everyone, mixing people where they hadn't mixed before. I see priesthood as a work of advocacy, listening to and reconciling opposing sides.

Best thing about relocation to the North?

Bridging the North-South divide. The opportunities for voices of the North to be heard. Dislocating the idea that everything worthwhile happens in one place. Instead, there is talent across the nation.

What makes you angry?

Inequality. On every level: financial, social, racial, religious, gender, the whole gamut. We are all created in God's image, showing a facet of our creator. I am passionate about equality and am currently researching equality and diversity in the Church.

Media highlight of the year so far?

I interviewed Aziz Rashid and Tommy Nagra for our interfaith dialogue group, the head of News North and head of television for religion and ethics. Two very gracious people who, though they have massively busy jobs, took time to talk to us and allowed me to interview them.

Were you involved in the Salford riots?

I was caught up in them, yes. Some of us ended up 'kettled' while the police at either end of the precincts kept control of the lads with the stones. During the lulls many men came and spoke with me. Young, old, missile throwers, spectators, residents, the employed and the unemployed. They all had a story and a theory. And there was a grain of truth in every one. I spoke with the reporter whose car was set on fire just moments before. He seemed really shaken and later some residents told me that the lads had set on him for filming/recording/photographing them - after all it would count as 'evidence'. And there I was with hundreds of others, seemingly completely immune by virtue of my dog-collar.

What scripture plays a role in your work?

Paul's idea of being all things to all people. One moment I can be with angry people who tell me how hard it is living on the estate. The next moment I am presenting to professionals or on the radio. You need to be able to get into the ever-changing groove, respecting differing cultures, language and needs.

Enough investment in work-based chaplaincy?

No. As working family patterns have changed and people have less time to go to church, we seem to spend lots of energy transforming worship to attract people who simply can't get there. We need to be where the people are, like Jesus was, bringing faith into the marketplace, the everyday.

What is your least/most green credential?

Most: I have been recycling since the early '90s after reading a scripture about good stewardship.

Least: Even though I bought an environmentally friendly car, I miss my Honda 4x4 very much for I can't fit my bike, dogs and kayak in the new one! Boo hoo!

Which movie character do you most relate to?

Andy Dufresne, the imprisoned banker in Shawshank Redemption. He is the prisoner who is willing to challenge the authorities to bring emotional and psychological freedom to the other prisoners. He knows what he needs to walk through for his own freedom, and faces it. He starts the library, bringing life, music and education into a place where others would have thought you can't bring life. Isn't that the message of the gospel, of how Christ liberates us, no matter what the cost?