It’s great to be a part of a community that puts their lives on the line

First published on: 16th September 2022

Rev'd Aly Tunstall speaks to us about becoming a chaplain to the fire service


I was ordained in 2017 and am currently the Vicar of St Michael’s in Garston. I’ve got 3 sons, a grandson, and an amazing husband. I had a number of jobs prior to becoming a Vicar including personal trainer, hairdresser, and barmaid but nobody was more surprised than me when God called me into the ministry.


What made you want to be a chaplain with the fire service?

Well, I’d been working with the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service for a number of years alongside the previous chaplain (Bill Sanders). When Bill retired, the Chief Fire Officer was pretty persistent in encouraging me to take up the mantle and continue the good work. After discussions with Mike McGurk, Bill - and a LOT of prayers, I was delighted to accept. It’s great to be a part of a community that puts their lives on the line every day for people who are in need.


What is a typical day like?

The Chaplaincy role is in addition to my ‘normal’ job as a Parish Priest, so it’s fair to say that there is no typical day. But I schedule in regular visits to the Fire Stations and work closely with the Occupational Health dept. I’m primarily there for firefighters, all fire service personnel, and their families (based on their motto ‘for all without exception’) to provide pastoral support and just be there as a soundboard. But if there is a severe incident, the officer in charge may also ask me to get involved with the firefighters and the families concerned. I also get involved with house visits, weddings, funerals, baptisms, special services, and events… so it is really varied...!!


What are the challenges and opportunities of your role?

It can be a challenge where you need to build relationships with people who don’t really have any faith.  I also have to try and understand what they go through, as they have to deal with some of the worst situations possible, so knowing how to be there for them in a supportive capacity is so important. And of course, logistically, just getting around all the stations is a challenge as Merseyside covers a large area - which also means that I’m always on call and could be called in the middle of the night to attend an incident or provide support.

The obvious opportunity is to share Jesus in a real and relevant way. I get to meet lots of people who wouldn’t ordinarily engage with Christianity. The fire service personnel often ask about my role as a Vicar and why I do what I do. This gives me an opportunity to speak to them about Jesus, what he did for me and what he can do for them. That’s a real privilege. I’m careful not to preach at them but to always pray for them and take every opportunity to give out the New Testament and Psalms firefighters' bible that has been authorised by the Chief Fire Officer.

I see my church and chaplaincy ministry as two parts of the whole, as opposed to being separate.  My congregation is very supportive of my chaplaincy role and my aim is to connect the church with the chaplaincy work I do as part of our missional outreach, across the whole of Merseyside.

Finally, the Fire Service is always changing and as their Chaplain, I need to be aware of that and be willing to adapt and change.  

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